Renovated Blue Oak Ranch open for business

renovated Blue Oak Ranch
The newly renovated cluster of buildings at Blue Oak Ranch Reserve. There are eight open-air seasonal cabins (left), two dorm cabins, and two faculty housing studio cabins (center rear), plus two reserve staff residences. The Cedar Barn (front right) now contains a great room, communal kitchens, classroom, a lab, and offices. A new well supplies high quality water, while the workshop (rear right) offers additional solar panel space, battery banks, and a water filter. Image credit: BORR

The NRS’s Blue Oak Ranch has opened the doors to a suite of new facilities that will transform this already bustling field station in the Diablo Range into a hub for large field classes, meetings, retreats, and more. The reserve is now able to house large groups with ease and comfort, while providing congenial places to meet, cook, and relax around the firepit.

Located on Mount Hamilton between UC Lick Observatory and the Alum Rock neighborhood of San Jose, Blue Oak Ranch has been a popular site for field research since it joined the NRS in 2007. Back then, living space was limited to a single, albeit large, barn, and reserve staff lived either in one wing of the barn or a trailer. Most researchers camped in tents for entire field seasons. A single restroom, modest kitchen, and one heated room for lab activities, storage, office space, and bunking down during inclement weather were crammed together in the central barn.

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The reserve now has indoor housing for 52 people. Additional capacity remains available for tent campers. A spacious laboratory, multipurpose room with capacity for 70, 24-seat classroom, modern commercial-grade kitchen, 2,000-square-foot workshop, and state of the art fire suppression and drinking water systems are among the new amenities. The 140 photovoltaic panels mounted on building roofs are coupled to a bank of deep cycle batteries, allowing the reserve to operate completely off the grid while meeting current and future electrical needs. Resurfaced roads and electronic gates make access to reserve headquarters easier than ever.

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The project was supported by $4,887,000 in funds from Proposition 84 administered by the state Wildlife Conservation Board, an amount matching the appraised value of the land donation for the reserve, plus endowment and start-up funds of over $3 million.

Now those who gather at the reserve to study the animals and plants of California’s oak woodlands can enjoy some creature comforts during their stay at modernized and expanded Blue Oak Ranch Reserve.


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