The California Joint Powers Insurance Authority (California JPIA) celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District.
For 50 years, the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (Midpen) has preserved and protected more than 65,000 acres of open space lands in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. Throughout this time, it has educated San Francisco Bay Area residents on the importance of preserving landscapes, raising environmental awareness, and caring for natural areas.
The district originated with a grassroots effort by community members. As the Bay Area experienced rapid growth during the 1960s, a group of residents worried they would lose irreplaceable vegetation, green space, trails, fresh air, and wildlife. They formed the “Room to Breathe” organization and collected more than 5,000 signatures to put a ballot measure in place to form a special district.
After the measure passed by 67.7 percent, what is now the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District was formed in 1972.
Midpen quickly established itself in the Bay Area, purchasing and preserving more than 13,000 acres of land by its 10th anniversary. Half a century later, Midpen protects 65,000 acres across 26 open space preserves, manages more than 245 miles of trails, and serves more than 770,000 residents.
“Throughout our 50th anniversary year, we are celebrating the accomplishments we, together as a community, have made in open space and agricultural preservation, natural resource protection, and public education and enjoyment,” said Leigh Ann Gessner, a public affairs specialist at Midpen.
While sustaining crucial restoration efforts, the special district’s diverse landscapes also bring about a unique set of potential risks, according to California JPIA Senior Risk Manager Tim Karcz, who supports the district. He shared that Midpen must manage wildfire mitigation, land use, wild animal policies, trail maintenance, and ranger staff training, as well as other unique risks, such as rescuing an orphaned mountain lion cub this April.
“Midpen is always doing something: redeveloping or converting spaces into property that the public can use and enjoy,” said Karcz. “They have a very good organizational structure, as well as intelligent and proactive leaders who understand and manage risk.”
Recently, with the guidance of the California JPIA, Midpen constructed a new headquarters building—a redesigned, vintage building they purchased to help advance their goals and strategic plans—after outgrowing the facility out of which they operated for 30 years. The California JPIA ensured they transferred and managed risk by strategically choosing contractors and securing required insurance.
“They completely redesigned the building, and it’s beautiful,” said Karcz. “They leveraged their resources to forward their mission and avoided any issues during the construction project.”
Midpen consistently purchases new land to bring under their preservation umbrella, addressing sites ranging from abandoned farms and former rodeo grounds to aging housing developments. They work diligently to restore the land’s natural functions, all while offering a place where residents and visitors can connect with nature.
“It’s a cool thing that the district devotes time, energy, and resources to make this happen,” said Karcz. “They’re in an environment where they must constantly reinvent themselves and prove themselves. And they do a good job at it.”
To learn more about the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, visit its website.
Providing innovative risk management solutions for its public agency partners for more than 40 years, the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority (California JPIA) is one of the largest municipal self-insurance pools in the state, with more than 120 member cities and other governmental agencies. Members actively participate in shaping the organization to provide important coverage for their operations. The California JPIA provides innovative risk management solutions through a comprehensive portfolio of programs and services, including liability, workers’ compensation, pollution, property, and earthquake coverage, as well as extensive training and loss control services. For more information, please visit the California JPIA’s website at cjpia.org.