“I ask you to grant me … a piece of vacant land”
The Chorro Valley area of San Luis Obispo County was once extensively used by local ranchers primarily for dairy production and cattle grazing. Vast herds of longhorn cattle were a hallmark of California rancho life. The rangy animals were raised primarily for their meat, tallow, and hides since milk, butter, and cheese were relatively unimportant in the diet of the Californios. Terrible years of drought in the 1860’s killed off the herds and hastened the end of the rancho era.
After the disastrous drought, some county ranchers turned to raising sheep, and a few farmers began to experiment with dairy herds. The Dairy Creek lands were part of two former ranchos, San Luisito and El Chorro. Both ranchos were acquired by the Hollister family in 1866 and consolidated into a single ranch.
By the 1870’s, dairying was firmly established in San Luis Obispo County, described by one pioneer dairyman as “cow heaven.” Butter and cheese, which required special equipment and skill to make, were the chief commercial dairy products and contributed greatly to the County’s wealth.
Dairy cattle probably roamed these hills beginning in the 1880’s, during John Hollister’s tenure. In 1889, Guiseppe Gilardi emigrated from Switzerland and arrived in California at the age of fifteen. Guiseppe and his partner Charles Walter purchased the land of Dairy Creek in 1904. These fellow countrymen eventually grew their holdings to more than 5,000 acres of land. Descendents of Guiseppe Gilardi owned the ranch and operated the dairy until the land was taken over by the government to enlarge Camp San Luis at the outbreak of World War II in the 1940’s. The Gilardi farm house still stands today alongside highway 1.
Dairy Creek land was used by the Federal Government during the 1940’s and 50’s for U.S. Army training purposes during World War II and the Korean War. In 1972, the land was deeded to the County of San Luis Obispo for the purpose of providing public park and public recreation during President Nixon’s Legacy of Parks program. Shrapnel and unexploded ordinance were removed prior to the development of El Chorro Regional Park and some of these materials remain in various areas of the property still to this day. The original plans for the park included camping and day use areas, ball fields, an archery and skeet range, a multi‐use equestrian arena, a wildlife sanctuary, stables, arboretum, amphitheater, open space, and a golf course.
Dairy Creek Golf Course construction began in 1994 and its Opening Day tournament benefitting high school golf in San Luis Obispo County was held March 22, 1997. There were 120 players present paying green fees and cart fees of $50 and $10 respectively per player.