San Joaquin County officials say the Woodbridge Wilderness Area is an expensive albatross that will continue to cost the county money and subject it to liability issues.
Meanwhile, in what could become a collision course, a nonprofit organization devoted to preserving wildlife habitat hopes to acquire nearly 5 acres adjacent to the wilderness area — and donate it to the county.
The Stockton-based Waldo Holt Conservancy is willing to put up $75,000 toward purchasing 4.65 acres owned by Donna Goldberg just north of the existing 17-acre wilderness area banking the Mokelumne River.
However, the county-owned preserve next to the Goldberg property has been closed for almost two years and promises to remain closed to the public until the economy recovers and the county can afford to maintain and patrol it.
Conservancy board member Eric Parfrey told Capital Public Radio on Friday that he realizes that the county can't afford to acquire or maintain the Goldberg property, but he hopes the economy changes in the next couple of years. The land is prime for hiking, bird-watching and fishing, according to Waldo Holt officials.
Goldberg, 54, who lives in the River Meadows subdivision adjacent to the property the Waldo Holt Conservancy desires, said she is willing to sell her land.
"For the right price, I am open to selling it," Goldberg said in a phone interview Monday. "It's an amazing piece of property. There's nothing like it in the Valley."
Goldberg said the 4.65 acres was assessed at almost $173,000 on Jan. 1. That doesn't include her house, where she's lived for 21 years. She remembers her husband and two sons enjoying the pristine land behind the family home, 400 feet from the Mokelumne.
But now Goldberg lives alone. Her husband died of leukemia in 2003, and her sons are grown and have moved out of the house.
Goldberg said she is willing to sell the 4.65 acres she owns, with or without her house. But she warns that she wants fair-market value. She's in no hurry to move, even though the house is a lot more than she needs — 3,400 square feet — and she'd like to stop paying taxes on it.
"My home is paid for, so I don't need to jump up and do anything," Goldberg said.
Parfrey maintains that the county "overassesses" the land behind Goldberg's home since it is zoned as park land.
Goldberg is busy doing her homework before deciding if she wants to sell the land. But it doesn't mean she'll sell it to the county or the Waldo Holt Conservancy.
"It might be a real treat for the next homeowner," she said. "It's pristine. It's in the heart of the wine country, it's close to downtown Woodbridge and it's near Lodi."
One problem with Goldberg's property, she said, is that it doesn't increase public access to the area. The only entrance to the wilderness area — when it's open — is through a gate on River Meadows Drive. The only way to get to Goldberg's property is through the adjacent Woodbridge Sanitary District property.
Sanitary district board President Harold Rohrbach said his board opposes public access to the district property because visitors to the Goldberg property would be too close to the wastewater treatment plant off Benedict Drive in the Windwood subdivision.
Meanwhile, any deal with Goldberg is on hold anyway, and it may require some changes to the Board of Supervisors, who have made it clear that acquiring the original Woodbridge Wilderness Area was a big mistake in the first place.
The county accepted the 17 acres in 1985 in lieu of park fees for the River Meadows subdivision.
County officials haven't decided on the wilderness area's long-term future, which could include selling it and taking it out of the county's hands.
"This board is pretty hostile toward that piece of property," Parfrey said.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.