Wilder Ranch, Santa Cruz: Almost a Huge Housing Development

Wilder Ranch, Santa Cruz: Almost a Huge Housing Development

Here is a little Wilder Ranch history that helps me appreciate the beautiful vistas and access to the ocean more than I might otherwise.

From 1791 to 1835, all of the land west of Mission Santa Cruz was used by the Mission for hunting and agriculture. In 1835 it became Rancho Refugio. The huge land grant had various owners and was subdivided into smaller sections. Deloss D. Wilder bought the section on which the park stands today, in 1885. He and his descendants operated a dairy farm here until the 1930s when financial pressures necessitated a switch to beef and vegetable production.

In 1969 the Wilder family sold the property to the Moroto Investment Company who proposed to develop up to 10,000 housing units over 30 years. The land was included in a plan developed by the Santa Cruz City Council to extend the city limits 3.5 miles to the north along the coast, thereby doubling the cities population.

The beautiful wave platforms of the Santa Cruz Mudstone at Wilder Ranch.
The beautiful wave platforms of the Santa Cruz Mudstone at Wilder Ranch.

Local residents opposed the plan and formed groups such as Operation Wilder to fight it. Ultimately, Santa Cruz County citizens voted to protect the open space. In 1974, California State Parks acquired the property to preserve the land’s natural environment and cultural history.

Much of the open space along the coast north of Santa Cruz is the result of many struggles between development and other priorities. Large tracts of land including Wilder Ranch, Gray Whale Ranch, Scaroni Ranch (now part of Wilder), Coast Dairies Property and very recently the CEMEX Redwoods area surrounding the Davenport Cement plant, are all development-free because of the work of many conservation organizations.

Take the Self-Guided Mobile Tour

This piece is part of the North Coast Tour. Download the free app with many tours of the Santa Cruz area and beyond.


Go to Mobile Ranger Guides in the Apple App Store
Go to Mobile Ranger Guides in the Google Play Store
  1. Sources Used

    • California State Parks Website. Wilder Ranch Pamphlet. 2009.
    • Personal Communication with Jim Keller, Director of Conservation and Land Initiatives, Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, November 28, 2012.
    • A Santa Cruz County Century: The Sentinel takes a journey through the past 100 years. Santa Cruz Sentinel. Santa Cruz Sentinel Publishers Co. 2000.
    • Wilder Ranch State Park. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilder_Ranch_State_Park.

About The Author

I really enjoy field trips. I love being in a cool place and having someone tell me about it. The problem is, you can’t always find a professor or park ranger-type to tell you all they know about the local rocks, plants, and history. So I decided to combine my love of things natural with mobile technology.

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