MARIN COUNTY (KPIX 5) -- A tranquil stretch of open space about six miles northwest from downtown San Rafael will remain a refuge for those seeking peace and quiet in the Bay Area, thanks to a generous donation by Metallica frontman James Hetfield.
The parcel of land not far from Skywalker Ranch has long been the center of discussion and some controversy.
In 2011, Hetfield wanted to develop some of his land along Lucas Valley Road in Marin County into home sites, but the neighbors objected. It led to a prolonged legal battle that the rocker would abandon after a few years.
Hetfield would also abandon Marin County, eventually moving to Colorado. In a radio interview, the longtime Bay Area resident detailed why he left.
"I love the Bay Area. I love what it's got to offer, but there's just an attitude that…it wasn't healthy for me, explained Hetfield in the interview. "Starting to feel like, uh, I was just fighting all the time."
Given that history, local resident might be surprised to hear that the iconic metal singer and his wife Francesca just donated 1,100 of his 1,500 acres to the Marin Agricultural Land Trust, preserving the tract for good.
"It can never be used for homes. It has to stay in agricultural use…forever," said Marin Agricultural Land Trust Executive Director Jamison Watts.
The Land Trust is devoted to preserving farmland. Property under its protection cannot be developed. The owners actually keep the land; they just can never build anything on it without an agricultural purpose. Usually the Trust has to pay for that.
Back in November of last year when the idea of creating the 1,100 land easement was brought to Marin County Board of Supervisors, the Hetfields released a statement that said, "We believe this is a huge community benefit, and one of our goals is to keep agriculture on the ranch for a very long time."
"So for the Hetfields to voluntarily donate their development rights on this piece of property was just mind-blowing," said Watts.
So now, the magnificent views from these hills will be reserved for the cattle that may be grazing on them. Though he has long been known for producing heavy metal at ear-splitting volume that fills stadiums, Hetfield has shown his softer side.
"He just made a comment that, you know, we don't truly own this land; we're temporary stewards of it. We want to do the right thing for us, now, for our family today as well as future generations," said Watts.
And no one Marin County is going to fight Hetfield about that.
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