Open Space – How it Began


September, 2001

Homestead Valley’s open space abuts thousands of acres of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. What a tremendous asset – a major factor in the quality of life for Homestead residents. Why and how did the community decide to acquire open space and thereby preclude development? Where did the process begin?

In 1971, the Homestead Valley Improvement Club (HVCA) asked Geoff Barrett to take responsibility for conservation and environmental matters. For example, he represented HVCA at public hearings on the formation of the Point Reyes National Seashore.

He soon began to focus his attention on Homestead Valley. On December 22, 1971 he wrote a letter. Here are a few extracts:

“Whither Homestead? Homestead Valley still has much undeveloped land. If the residents do nothing, the chances are that much of this will be developed within the next few years. Should a sufficient number of people be really interested in preserving open space in Homestead, there is much to be done.

  1. Encourage the Parks and Recreation Commission to buy certain parcels of open space by means of County – local matching tax money.
  2. Identify the areas, values and owners of existing undeveloped land to decide what we should try and save.
  3. Open lines of communication with County planning to have the chosen parcels designated as urban open space.

There is much to be done: Who will do it?”

Geoff sent his famous “Whither Homestead” letter to about 20 HVCA board members and other Homesteaders he considered influential. There was no response. About a month later, he decided on a different tack. He invited these and other people to an exploratory meeting at his home. Although there was general enthusiasm for preserving the land, no one had a clue as to how it might be done. About a month later, he organized a public hike across potentially available open space land. The hike ended at Stolte Grove, which was high on everyone’s list of what should be publicly owned. At this point, Mike Cann stepped forward and asked Geoff if he could help.

This is where it all began. Other Homesteaders pitched in to perform the numerous tasks required to bring about the dream envisioned by Geoff Barrett in his famous “Whither Homestead” letter. On September 18, 1973, the voters passed a $600,000 bond issue. The vote was 529 yes, and 138 no.

If you have comments or questions about this article or other topics
pertaining to the history of Homestead Valley,
please feel free to e-mail Chuck Oldenburg.