State park gains unique GV field |

State park gains unique GV field

This land recently became part of Empire Mine State Historic Park. Pictured here are Cheryl Belcher (left), executive director of the Nevada County Land Trust; Park Superintendent Ray Patton; and Tim Roark, who previously owned the land with Pat O'Brien.
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In case you were wondering, that big, grassy field on the south side of East Bennett Street just outside Grass Valley has been preserved as open space.

Over the years, it’s been eyed for a variety of developments, including a mini-storage building and a softball field.

But it’s now part of Empire Mine State Historic Park. In fact, it has been for about 13 months. Park officials made the $712,000 land purchase more than a year ago.

But to raise public awareness, they formally announced the acquisition Wednesday.

“It could have been a mini-storage, but now it’s for the public benefit,” said Cheryl Belcher, executive director of the Nevada County Land Trust.

The land trust helped the park purchase the property by contributing $50,000 that originally came from the Nature Conservancy.

The park contributed $340,000 toward the purchase, using funds from a park bond measure the state’s voters approved in 1988, said Park Superintendent Ray Patton. Another $390,000 came later from the state Park and Recreation Department’s habitat conservation fund, he said.

That’s because of the property’s unique ecological value, Patton said.

Jim Berry, senior state park ecologist, wrote in an ecological assessment that, “The meadow is likely to be the best example of what Grass Valley looked like prior to early development.

“I have been studying natural grassland ecosystems for 25 years and have not seen a better example in the western Sierra than this site,” he wrote.

Patton said the park will take steps to reduce invasive weeds on the property, including star thistle.

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