Even those who haven't heard about the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) have certainly seen its footprint on the greater Peninsula. The organization is responsible for preserving more than 80,000 acres of baylands, skyline and coast in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.
Every day, scores of residents take in views of the surrounding natural landscape, hike on nearby trails and enjoy the outdoors in spaces protected by the Palo Alto nonprofit.
On a clear day from downtown Palo Alto, it's possible to see Windy Hill Open Space Preserve up in the hills of neighboring Portola Valley. The 1,132-acre park — one of POST's first major acquisitions — was initially slated for the development of more than 400 homes.
The group also played a role in securing a key piece of Arastradero Preserve in Palo Alto, which has some of the most utilized park trails in the community.
And those fresh-picked fruit and organic vegetables at the local farmers market? POST is responsible for some of that, too. Through land stewardship, agricultural easements and partnerships with local farmers, the nonprofit is working to save and rebuild local farmland. More than 50% of San Mateo's farmland has been lost in the past 30 years, according to the organization.
Since its founding in 1977, the group has become one of the nation's leading land trusts. In 2000, POST secured 1,719 acres surrounding Pigeon Point Lighthouse on the coast, for $39 million. The deal was reportedly the largest amount of money ever paid by a nonprofit for land in the western United States.
"To be able to preserve this natural environment and be able to look up at the mountains and go over to the coast ... what that does psychologically for everyone is enormous," Christina Holloway, a former board member and community volunteer at POST, told this news organization.
In honor of the nonprofit's unwavering commitment to preserving land, the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce and Palo Alto Weekly are recognizing POST with the 2022 outstanding nonprofit Tall Tree Award.
POST was initially formed as a private, nonprofit partner to the public, government-operated Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District to raise money and negotiate with local property owners to purchase parcels of land for open space. Over the years, POST has formed numerous public-private and nonprofit partnerships to leverage funds and expand its conservation work.
Land acquisition is just one step in the process of preserving open space. When the organization acquires land, it restores and maintains the property for a period of time, sometimes years, prior to transferring it to a public agency for permanent protection.
POST also offers outreach and education opportunities, including guided tours and lectures, to allow community members to engage with nature and experience the land.
"If we don't save this landscape, there's not going to be any place for people to commune with it or to teach these children in another generation," Holloway said.
Read more stories on the 2020 and 2022 Tall Tree Award honorees: