Lanita Witt, Suzanne Willow and our daughter Brooke were looking for 40 acres of rural property on a sparkling December 31, 1984. We had selected the Ashland school district as our new home-to-be, and had a realtor's map in hand as we drove up a snowy Shale City Rd. Driving toward the mapped parcel, we looked down into a beautiful valley with a big barn and little house under 4 feet of snow, and thought about the family that lives there summers. We visited the mapped parcel, and three others, and went back to the view of the valley at sunset. We went back again twice the next day ... and noticed a small 'For Sale' sign at the base of Shale City Rd. Tuesday, January 2, 1985, we were in the realtor's office before returning to Napa, California, and found that the parcel for sale was the valley we had all fallen in love with, and that it was 440 acres! Magic was definitely afoot. Two weeks later an offer to buy had come in on the property; we returned to Ashland, skied into the valley with the big barn and the little house, and put in our own offer. The rest, as they say, is history.
That May, when we first saw the land without snow, we remarked that we needed to share this land with others. Our love affair with this remarkable ecosystem has lasted more than 30 years, and our appreciation of the complexities of the waters, forests and wetlands has deepened. We have returned the over-harvested forest to a healthy and balanced multi-species multi-age stand. We have fenced out cows. We are restoring the eroded wetlands. We have raised the water table. Our actions have brought new bird species to the valley. We have protected threatened plants and fostered wildlife. We operate a small certified organic farm to continue the agricultural history of the property. We open the land as an educational laboratory to students, and we host Farm Stays and a Campground to bring families to this magical valley. Now we are forming a Non-Profit Corporation to continue the protection and restoration of this unique ecosystem and to strengthen our educational outreach. Please join us in this magical journey.