GORMAN, Calif. (AP) — Tejon Ranch, California’s largest contiguous expanse of private land, is a hefty chunk of paradise.
The 270,000-acre property about 60 miles north of Los Angeles contains oak-studded ridges and grasslands teeming with wildlife.
“You can literally explore this for days,” Mike Campeau, director of hunting and equestrian operations at the Tejon Ranch Co., told the Los Angeles Times.
But until now, most people couldn’t. For most of its 165-year history, visits were confined to invited guests and to hunters who paid up to $25,000 to bag elk, deer, wild pig, turkey and even bears.
Beginning in September, however, about 25,000 acres of the ranch will be opened to the public. For $2,500, members and their families will receive a key to the ranch gates to access the Explorer Recreation Area on the western end of the ranch. For five months, they can hike, camp, mountain bike or simply explore.
Members also can rent horses, homes and cabins.
The fall season will run until Jan. 29 and a second season from March to the end of July.
The ranch owners expect to sell 25 to 100 memberships in the first year.
“For so many years, the ranch was closed,” Campeau said. “For the last year, we’ve been trying to bring new business here.”
The ranch currently gets most of its money from leasing mineral rights and land for farming and grazing, along with real estate development. The Tejon Ranch Co. plans to build three urban centers with nearly 35,000 homes after reaching an agreement with environmental groups in 2008 to preserve 90 percent of the ranch for agricultural use and wilderness.
The new membership plan is part of an effort by the ranch to increase public access and improve its image as it looks to break ground on the housing developments, the Times reported.
The Tejon Ranch Co. also is considering hosting an endurance race and even producing wine on the ranch.
“A big part of this is about sharing the land,” said Joseph Rentfro, Tejon Ranch Co.’s executive vice president for real estate.
“We are still in our infancy, trying to determine what works and what doesn’t,” he said.
Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com/