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The Prowl

The Future of the Wildcat Ranch

SHS Ag Ranch

Kirsti Dyer

SHS Ag Ranch

Kaarina Thompson and Kristiina Thompson

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Continuing discussions over the fate of the Wildcat Ranch permeate Sonora High School and the community. A hot topic at board meetings, on campus, and in the community, many people seem to be talking about what will happen to the Ranch during difficult financial times at SHS.

The Wildcat Ranch is a 138-acre plot located at the corner of Wards Ferry and Tuolumne Road. There are possibilities to continue ownership of the Ranch, sell off portions of the land, or sell the Ranch completely.

Sonora High School acquired the land in the 1980s. For years, no one knew what to do with it. Still, every year, the school had to pay a small fee for owning the land and not doing anything with the land.

It was not until six years ago that the school began to utilize the parcel.

Despite concrete plans, the Agriculture teacher before Mrs. Ingalls had students build a gate on the property. From there, the Ranch only grew and is now home to farm animals, a garden, and even a cross country course.

Mrs. Ingalls, the current SHS Agriculture instructor, has endless ideas for how to expand the Ranch; she hopes the school can find a way to save it since it has impacted both the students and the community.

“Besides the educational aspect of it, it also opened up opportunities to community involvement,” she said. “So we had local farmers and agriculturalists that would come in and share their expertise or help us or donate their time and equipment.”

Working with agricultural experts in the community has been extremely beneficial for the students in the programs, according to Mrs. Ingalls.

“We built partnerships with community agriculture people, so students got exposed to those people and potential opportunities for the future.”

Mrs. Ingalls expressed concern on how the absence of the Ranch could potentially harm the success of her students.

“Selling the Ranch is just one more way to reduce the opportunities for students,” she said.

Kirsti Dyer
Jackson McIlroy and Patrick McConnell, both contributors to the cross country course, are finally able to use it for not only training purposes, but for actual races.

Along with the Ag farm out at the Ranch, there is also a cross country course, which was designed by Steven Grolle and constructed by Patrick McConnell. The trail took more than 50 hours of hard labor and dedication to make.

The Sonora High School cross country team hosted their first cross country meet in years at the Wildcat Ranch. It was at the Ranch that the Varsity Boys took first in the league in the 2016 season.

With selling part of the Ranch, the route would have to be altered, requiring more help and hours from cross country families and school staff.

Senor Garcia, SHS head cross country coach, has concerns for selling parts of the Ranch but still holds out hope that SHS will keep the ranch.

“There’s ideas to still keep our cross country course, still keep our farm area, and be able to not sell of the entire Ranch but part of it,” he said.

This year, senior Jackson McIlroy made it his mission to put up signage and mile markers out at the Ranch for his senior project.

As McIlroy pointed out, four years of senior projects have contributed to the growth of the Ranch’s cross country course. Getting rid of the trail or changing it would do away with all the hard work that went into making it.

“It gave us a place, like a home, somewhere we can call our course,” McIlroy said. “So many people from across the league have told us how great of a course it is, so it would be kind of disrespectful and inconsiderate to just throw it all away.”

The Ranch also gave Ag students a home for their animals.

Students who want to raise farm animals but don’t have the ability to do so on their own property have the option of having their animals out at the Ranch.

“With that not being there, some people won’t be able to show an animal,” said Jayanna Scott, sophomore and Ag student.

The need for the Ranch is apparent, but so is the need for money for the school.

Some members of the community and staff members at Sonora High believe the school could benefit from selling some of the Ranch, as long as Sonora High sells it properly. As pointed out by Carol Travis, the Ranch is a spectacular piece of land with promise to help the school financially, but should be treated with care.

“If you have to say yes or no [to the Ranch being sold], then I’d have to say yes-but with lots of stipulation,” Travis said.

Mr. Howell, SHS principal, suggests leaving the Ranch be for now instead of selling it completely.

“We may have to pay a penalty for not using the land, but to let it sit undeveloped is probably better than lose it outright because we’d be losing the vision,” he said.

No decisions have been made as of now, but a committee composed of community members will decide the future of the Ranch.

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The Student News Site of Sonora High School
The Future of the Wildcat Ranch