Merced, CA — With funds received from an historic grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the University of California today announced plans to acquire the 7,030-acre Virginia Smith Trust [VST] parcel northeast of the City of Merced for the proposed 10th UC campus and create a natural preserve of almost 6,000 acres.
The Packard grant to the University, which is likely to exceed a total of $11 million, provides funds for the land acquisition plus additional funds to assist the VST in achieving its mission to provide scholarships for students attending California colleges and universities.
A coming valuation of the acquisition will determine the final value of the Packard donation; funds in excess of the land acquisition will be conveyed to the VST to enhance its ability to achieve its mission.
After acquisition, the University plans to set aside 5,030 acres as a conservation preserve that would protect sensitive vernal pool habitat in perpetuity. The remaining 2,000 acres would be set aside for the proposed new UC Merced campus on the southwest portion of the VST lands; the campus portion would include a 750-acre natural reserve of vernal pool habitat protected from development.
The VST will use proceeds from the sale to add to its scholarship endowment, invest in the future proposed University Community on nearby land, and pay off long-term loans on the Merced Hills Golf Course, which is owned by the VST and is part of the acquisition.
"With this agreement, the University can make a major contribution to the education of the children of the San Joaquin Valley while at the same time creating a major environmental preserve," said UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey. "We are very pleased that the Packard Foundation grant allows the University to acquire the proposed home of our new campus."
Kenneth Robbins, attorney for the VST, added: "We are very excited about the opportunity this gift creates. The Packard Foundation funding will allow the Trust to achieve its mission to support scholarships by significantly improving its financial situation. This generous grant is essential to the future capacity of the Trust to continue its scholarship mission. We must continue to assure students access to higher education, and this grant will help solidify our partnership with UC Merced in this regard. The VST, like the Packard Foundation and the University, has chosen to take a long-term view of education and improving the quality of life and opportunity for Valley children."
Since the establishment of the scholarship trust by Virginia Smith upon her death in 1972, the trust has enabled in excess of 5,000 San Joaquin Valley children to attend California colleges and universities by providing millions of dollars in scholarship grants.
The VST was one of the first to recognize what a new campus of the University of California could mean to the children and economy of the San Joaquin Valley. The VST tract was identified in 1995 by the UC Regents as the site for the 10th campus in Merced. The University originally proposed creating both the new campus and a community for 30,000 on the north-central quadrant of the VST site, with the VST partnering in the community development to benefit its scholarship fund. In response to the need to avoid the most environmentally sensitive areas of the VST site, the University in recent weeks proposed a relocation of the campus about two miles to the southwest.
UC Merced currently employs almost 65 educators and professionals. The University's main campus in Merced is expected to open in fall 2004 to serve 1,000 students. The campus will grow over coming decades to serve 25,000 students. UC Merced contributes to educational access through the entire San Joaquin region via special educational and outreach centers in Fresno and Bakersfield. A new UC Merced center will open in Modesto later this year.