A single family has controlled large swaths of Bay Area land since the Gold Rush, but that era ended this week, the San Francisco Chronicle reports: The Pattersons have donated the last of their land—almost 300 acres—to the East Bay Regional Park District. The $10 million donation is the most valuable the district has ever received, the newspaper notes; developers put the value at closer to $500 million. Wilcox Patterson calls Tuesday's donation "bittersweet. I used to tramp around here as a boy, hunting pheasants and ducks. But we inherited this land, and with inheritance comes an obligation to give back. ... I'm thrilled to see this land go to public use, for public enjoyment."
Indiana farmer George Patterson headed to California's goldfields in 1849—but it was his farming operation that really took off, the Park District notes. At one point, the Pattersons owned some 8,700 acres of land in the area. After 14 years of argument between locals, developers, the government, and the family, some 296 acres of the new donation will remain as open land. Another 100-acre tract will be developed. "This is an amazing example of benevolence," says an official. "It was a tortuous route to get here, but nothing great ever comes easily," adds the district's general manager. (Meanwhile, drought is fueling a modern day Gold Rush.)