Walter Cottle Lester, who wouldn’t sell his family’s ranch as San Jose’s urban sprawl grew around it, died there Jan. 31 at 88.
It was the day before a 4-mile trail, the start of a planned park and agricultural preserve on the land, opened to the public. The land had an estimated value of $500 million, according to The San Jose Mercury News.
In 2003, Santa Clara County officials entered a preservation agreement with Lester. He gifted the county 153.3 acres and separately sold, at a significant discount, 136.5 acres to California State Parks, according to county records.
Martial Cottle Park is to be named for Lester’s maternal grandfather. Lester was the last surviving member of the family.
The land was in his family since the 1860s; fruits and grains are grown there.
San Jose was once a center of agricultural production. Relatively little remains.