William Edward Roberts was born in Selma, CA in 1890. In 1913, Roberts began farming in the Fig Garden district of Fresno, eventually acquiring over 1000 acres of fig orchards. He purchased the 167-acre Jensen River Ranch property in 1947 for grazing cattle and raising hogs. Roberts used his cull figs to feed the livestock, but the animals would get drunk if they consumed too much of the fruit. W.E. Roberts’s daughter, the late Margaret Jensen, remembers her father as a
“gentle man who really enjoyed the ranch.”
Roberts died November 29, 1958, leaving some of his farming operations to his children including the 167-acre ranch.
The family leased the property for cattle grazing for many years. After considering developing the sand and gravel resources on the property, the Jensen family made the generous decision to sell the land for the Parkway.
Working in partnership with The Trust for Public Land, the River Parkway Trust acquired Jensen River Ranch in 1998. This land acquisition was funded by the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, the California Transportation Commission, and the Wildlife Conservation Board.
A public celebration and property dedication was held in May 1998.
“We’re proud the entire community can enjoy this beautiful waterfront property,”
Margaret Jensen shared with the people who attended the dedication.
In 2006, the River Parkway Trust began the first phase of wildlife habitat enhancement and public recreation improvements at Jensen River Ranch. The second phase of wildlife habitat enhancement was completed in 2016. Today, Jensen River Ranch provides excellent public access to the San Joaquin River and is among the most visited properties in the San Joaquin River Parkway.
Next year, the Trust will begin wildlife habitat restoration on the Jenco Farms property just north of Jensen River Ranch. Stay tuned for more information about how you can get involved with the project.