anuary 23, 2009

Couple donates two 80-acre parcels of land to state park

Lorraine Whetstone
The Desert Sun

An Indian Wells couple have donated 160 acres of prime wildflower land to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Steve and Linda Kay's donation was appraised at $400,000, park officials said.

But to many, it's priceless.

“The donated land is part of the finest wildflower areas in Borrego Valley, and it's crucial we get as much of it preserved as possible,” park Superintendent Mark Jorgensen said.

“It's a tremendous piece of property,” said Gail Sevrens of the Colorado Desert District.

The land, two 80-acre parcels, is north of Henderson Canyon Road and west of Peg Leg monument.

Not only do the two parcels connect existing park lands, they're also in a flood plain, said Steve Kay, who donated the land.

“Lots of water collects and lots of flowers are produced,” he said.

Acres of land at the park are covered with verbena, dune evening primrose and desert sunflowers in the spring. The displays attract people from all over the world.

This particular piece of “gorgeous” wildflower land is especially nice because it's near a road, said Delores Lukina, the foundation's vice president for acquisitions. Lukina, who coordinated the donation, is from La Quinta.

“There's people that can't hike, and they can just drive by,” she said.

Steve Kay, 46, said he bought the land after seeing it on the cover of a magazine while he was flying. He bought it just to donate it.

“I enjoy the beauty of Borrego,” he said. “I spend a lot of time there.

“I'm not a true-blue hiker, but I'm a guy who goes out and spends a couple hours walking around.”

Kay said he used to own a medical company and a golf course, and used to build houses. He and his wife also live part-time in Yorba Linda.

He encourages others to donate land bordering the park if they aren't going to do anything with it.

“There are tax alternatives,” he said. “Sometimes it makes sense to donate the property.”

The Anza-Borrego Foundation and Institute, which promotes park conservation, paid for the closing costs. The property was appraised at $2,500 an acre, according to the foundation.

Anza-Borrego is the largest state park in California, with more than 600,000 acres. Portions of the park extend into Riverside County. It's about a two-hour drive from Palm Springs.