FREMONT -- A farm family as deeply rooted as its 150-year old hay and grain fields has given away its last 296 acres of agricultural land to expand the Coyote Hills Regional Park.
This week the land, valued at $10 million or more, became the most valuable property gift ever received by the East Bay Regional Park District.
Descendants of George Washington Patterson, a gold miner turned farmer, gave the land to the district in a compromise that allowed some 500 homes to be built on about 100 acres of adjacent land in Fremont.
The development will be a scaled-down project, with a fraction of the 2,000 homes and golf course that a developer proposed to build there in the late 1990s.
"This is an important parkland acquisition that has taken some 15 years or more to bring about involving discussions with the family, the city of Fremont, community groups and others," said Bob Doyle, the regional park district general manager. "A small portion of the land will be developed, but we get 296 acres."
Developers have coveted the land along Paseo Padre Parkway because it is flat and near a major commute route, Highway 84.
The site includes a mixture of fallowed farmland, fields, riparian forest and marsh.
The park district plans to use the property to restore wetlands, provide trails, and grow organic vegetables, as is done in nearby Ardenwood Historic Farm, the one-time homestead of the Patterson family.
The donation, accepted Tuesday by the regional park board, will enlarge Coyote Hills Regional Park by a third, boosting its size to 1,274 acres.
In a written statement, Wilcox Patterson of Portola Valley said the family is "gratified that this land is now passing from the Patterson family to the good stewardship of the regional park district for everyone to enjoy."
In 1849, George Patterson, an Indiana farmer, came to California to mine gold but found his fortune in farming. He raised hay and cattle initially and branched out into wheat, corn, peas, carrots, chickens, butter, milk, cauliflower and other products.
The family's agricultural holdings once topped 8,000 acres in Fremont, Union City, Newark and Livermore.
Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267. Follow him at Twitter.com/deniscuff.