photo by Sheldon Breiner

Open Space in Portola Valley

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Spring Down Leave a Life's Legacy   
History of Open Space in PV Map of PV Open Space                                    
Residents Make it Possible Herb Dengler
Get Involved: The Open Space Fund                        Additional Links



Please Note: Click here for current seasonal trail closures.

Spring Down Open Space News

Work was completed in 2012 on the perimeter trail of this open space with completion in time to view the dazzling spring wildflower display. A later phase of development will improve access to the pond area, a unique biotic feature that will provide opportunities for natural history observations and a restful retreat from the hustle and bustle of the Town Center campus.

The Town completed the acquisition of the six-acre Spring Down Open Space in 2005 with Open Space funds. In 2009, the Open Space Committee prepared a master plan of the site for the Town Council. The Council appointed a 16-member committee of Town committee representatives and residents to study the site and its uses. This committee met in the spring and summer months of 2010 and concluded, with the help of a hydrologist and neighbors of the site, that the highest use of the open space would be a low key, quiet site with low maintenance requirements and an emphasis on native vegetation. Site conditions around the pond area, the creek, and drainage continue to be studied, and the Town Council is expected to give final approval of the plan for the site in early 2011.

The Open Space Committee has emphasized “the value of this open space as an integral part of the adjacent Town Center campus that can provide a true open space experience as part of our otherwise busy Town Center campus”

History and Tradition of Open Spaces in Portola Valley

Through the efforts of its residents over the years, Portola Valley acquired through contributions or outright purchases seven significant open spaces with the Town's borders. They are:

  • 1970 - Dorothy Ford Park
  • 1981 - Windy Hill
  • 2005 - Spring Down Parcel
  • 2007 - Herb Dengler Parcel
  • 2008 - Shady Trail Parcel

The following two sites were acquired by partnering:

  • 1968 - Coal Mine Ridge and Blue Oaks Trails (trails and open space easements deeded to the Town by the Portola Valley Ranch Association)
  • 1975 - Frog Pond (deeded to the Town by the Portola Valley Ranch Subdivision)

When our Town was incorporated in 1964, the founding fathers had a clear vision of the need for open space and environmental protection to maintain Portola Valley’s rural character. In 1970, the Town made its first significant purchase, the Dorothy Ford Park. Over the years, the Town worked with developers to plan developments with integral open space. A shining example is the 347 acres of open space at Portola Valley Ranch. The Town contributed to the acquisition of the Windy Hill Open Space (1981); completed the purchase of Spring Down Open Space (2005); accepted the gift of the Dengler Open Space (2007); and acquired the Shady Trail parcel (2008). In this decade alone, the Town has preserved 19 acres of open space.

How Residents Make it Possible

When the Portola Valley Open Space Acquisition Advisory Committee was formed in 1994, the Town’s Open Space Fund balance was zero. Leadership gifts from Tom Ford and Bill and Jean Lane jump-started the fund raising. Our Town residents have always cared about preserving our open space.

In 1997, voters passed the Utility Users Tax to provide a revenue stream for the Open Space Fund, and followed with generous contributions to the 2000 Millennium Challenge for Open Space. Town residents have generously supported the fund directly with monetary gifts, fund-raisers such as the annual Blues & Barbecue event, and revenue provided by the voter-approved Utility Users Tax.

Thanks go to all residents who have contributed at every level, and especially our major benefactors:

  • The Kersten Family for the outright gift of the Dengler Open Space;
  • Beverly and Peter Lipman for the Shady Trail Open Space acquisition;
  • Mary and Rodney Smith for their Millennium Challenge gift leading to the Spring Down Open Space acquisition;
  • The late Bill Lane and his wife, Jean, who have supported the Open Space Fund at every turn.

Get Involved: About the Open Space Fund

Through the years, residents and others have raised funds to preserve some 1900 acres of open space within the Town’s boundaries. Several fund-raising committees have worked at various times to achieve this goal, culminating in today’s Open Space Acquisition Fund (PVOSAF). This restricted fund, overseen by the Town Council, is composed of monies accrued from a special 2% utility tax approved by the voters in 1997, 2001, 2005, and 2009 and from private donations. The Open Space Acquisition Fund is used solely for the purchase and maintenance of open space within the Town.

Blues & Barbecue, an annual fundraiser for Open Space, is always looking for volunteers to help with this fun community event. All proceeds go directly to Portola Valley's Open Space Fund. The event is managed by Portola Valley's Community Events Committee (CEC). Please contact Sharon Hanlon, the Town Clerk for more information or e-mail

Leave a Life's Legacy

Whether it’s a bequest in a will naming Open Space as a beneficiary of your trust, a retirement plan or life insurance policy, or another estate planning option, your gift supports open space in Portola Valley now and in perpetuity.

Consider gifts of stock and property. In addition to gifts of cash, if you own assets such as stocks, bonds, or mutual funds that have increased in value since they were purchased, consider a gift of appreciated securities. You enjoy a double benefit – you receive a charitable tax deduction for their full fair market value and you pay no capital gains tax.

Tax-deductible contributions in the form of checks or appreciated securities are always welcome additions to the fund. Having cash in hand can make it possible to acquire desired property when it becomes available. For further information about how to make a gift or if you are interested in estate planning options, including Charitable Remainder Trusts, please contact Town Hall at (650) 851-1700 ext. 215. Checks can be made payable to Portola Valley Open Space Acquisition Fund (PVOSAF) and mailed to Town Hall (address at this website's footer).

New Map Features our Seven Open Space Sites

A Flyer and accompanying Map describing the legacy and history of Portola Valley’s Open Spaces is now available. The flyer may be used as a poster along with the one-page map featuring the locations, size, access information, and other unique features of each open space. Note: This is a new webpage. Detailed information about each open space will soon be included on the site. Your experiences and comments are welcome and, in fact, solicited.

Herb Dengler ~ a Pioneer for Portola Valley's Open Space 

For many, Herb Dengler was a link to the time before the dawn of Silicon Valley, when people marked their travel by the shape of the hills, not by freeway signs. A true native, he spent his ninety years walking the Santa Cruz Mountains, particularly Jasper Ridge and Portola Valley, coming to know all its inhabitants – butterflies, fishes, birds, trees, flowers, and people. He loved sharing his knowledge with family and friends, his neighbors of Portola Valley, and Stanford students. He persistently sought to protect the wildlands while leaving a place for people within it.

Herb taught the first class of Jasper Ridge docents, helped found the Portola Valley Conservation Committee (serving on that committee for more than 30 years), and helped build many trails throughout the area allowing easy access to the beauty around us.

Herb was the Town’s Pied Piper, leading local residents on hikes to see the hybrid oaks on Coal Mine Ridge, spring wildflowers on Jasper Ridge, or to find the rare Dawn Redwood in the hills near Skyline. In 1997, the Palo Alto Senior Coordinating Council honored him as having lived a "Lifetime of Achievement." In 1999, he was the honoree at Portola Valley's annual celebration of community and open space,"Blues and Barbecue."

Herb's other great love was art. From an early age, he drew and painted butterflies, fish, birds, and wildflowers. This was during an era when biologists were expected to be competent artists. For many decades, Herb ran a framing and art gallery in Burlingame and later in Palo Alto. He was a well-known restorer of paintings and an expert in Western art. Herb combined these two great loves in his home and in his own art and writings. For more than fifty years, he and his family lived among the redwoods along Sausal Creek in Portola Valley in a house full of beautiful paintings and prints. His articles and drawings on natural and local history were published in local papers, the Stanford magazine and Peninsula Open Space Trust's “Landscapes”. His drawings of local wildflowers grace the walls of many Portola Valley homes.

Some Helpful Links

Other Links of Interest


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