In 1976 Countess Margit Bessenyey donated over 13 acres of land to the Town of Los Altos Hills. As part of this deal
the Town bought historic Westwind Barn, situated on the Countess' acreage for the princely sum of $25,000.
The actions of Countess Margit were planned to complement the earlier donation of 55 acres by Dr. Albert Byrne which
became known as Byrne Preserve. The purchase of a hiking and wildlife corridor, enabled by Lucile Packard and The Packard Foundation, connects the barn
and preserve to to Hidden Villa, Black Mountain, and the Pacific Ocean beyond.
After lengthy diligence, the town turned over management of Westwind and Byrne to The Friends of Westwind, Inc. with a mission
to oversee Byrne and operate the barn as a community property.
Time serving the community
For 25 years Westwind has continued to serve the community offering priority horse boarding to Los Altos Hills residents
and making Byrne Preserve a place for wildlife to thrive and for residents to enjoy.
A therapeutic riding program for children with physical disabilities was begun in 1978 with sessions twice a week relying on volunteers, often our teenagers.
The results have been acclaimed by all.
Westwind is home to the Pacific Ridge chapter of the United States Pony Club. This youth organization for children aged 7-21 teaches good horsemanship,
team skills, and leadership. Pony Club is popular, even more so as College sports include equestrian teams.
Most of our US Olympic Equestrian Team members are Pony club graduates.
The LAH Recreation Committee offers summer horse camps, Ohlone day camps, plus additional activities at Westwind. These popular programs attract
increasing numbers of children each year. The Recreation Committee is planning a year-round riding program at Westwind to
provide residents access to horses without the full time responsibility that comes with caring for horses at home.
Original Intent Threatened
To everyone's surprise, the sale
of the Westwind Barn property for development and the relocation of its facilities onto Byrne Preserve
has been raised at Town Council meetings - just when other towns like Portola Valley, Woodside, and East Palo Alto are raising money
to buy additional
The Town Recreation Commitee wants to keep all existing recreation facilities and open spaces. Westwind Barn and Byrne Preserve are the focal
point of many programs, and the Committee wants to continue that use. According to The Town Crier, at least three of today's Council Members would not oppose selling properties
like Westwind Barn despite the fact that the barn is a net cash contributor to the town.
There's talk of BBQ pits on Byrne Preserve "like Cuesta Park" - not what the foresighted citizens intended when they said "The
main purpose of the acquisition is to retain the natural beauty highly valued in the rural Hills environment and well guarded by the local citizenry."
It's time for action. The recent Town survey told us that the majority of residents enjoy and want to preserve our open spaces. We'd like to find out for sure
so we're planning to poll the residents. Based on the findings of that poll we may propose a ballot initiative that ensures residents be given an
opportunity to vote on any sale or significant change in use of certain Town-owned properties and open space lands.
To do this we need help. The best help would be an "open space friendly" Town council. We're also going to need volunteers to to help make our
case, the money to make it happen, and the influence that you, residents of the town and the owners of these properties, can generate within our community.