Indexed News on:

--the California "Mega-Park" Project

Tracking measurable success on preserving and connecting California's Parks & Wildlife Corridors


Saturday, February 6, 2010

East SF Bay land preservation update...


Founded in 1971, Save Mount Diablo has been instrumental in expanding preserved natural lands on and around the mountain from 6,788 acres to more than 90,000 acres.


What an exciting yet difficult year we are experiencing in 2009. Major challenges, significant
opportunities, and dramatic accomplishments: two new acquisitions - Viera North Peak and Marsh Creek IV; transferring Chaparral Spring to the East Bay Regional Park as part of what will become a new regional preserve;

Viera – North Peak in Purchase Contract; SMD Has 300 Days To Acquire 165 Acres

Finally a deal was struck last month. The parcel has limited access except through Mt. Diablo State Park, with which it shares half its border; it’s a natural addition. The purchase price is $975,000, or $5,890 per acre, and SMD has 300 days to raise the funds.


During the past 2 years, we have protected eight new properties, totaling 893 acres. Even when major development projects are not being constructed, land use and zoning requests are still being submitted and we need to continue to monitor and respond to these applications.
For example, we’ve just heard about the resurgence of a proposal to break the Urban Limit Line in the Tassajara Valley – the “New Farms” project.



To the south the Roddy Ranch project proposes 674 new homes covering 540 acres surrounding the golf course and stretching east to Deer Valley Road. The development would also include a 250 room hotel near the Deer Valley - Balfour Road intersection and a new golf course, club house and other facilities. SMD wants the project cut in half and the western portion of the project area adjacent to the panhandle (as well as all of the Ranch in Deer Valley) protected as a new regional park.

To the north of the panhandle is the Higgins Ranch (Zeka). A square mile in size, it is stunningly beautiful, and surrounded on three sides by Black Diamond Mines. Antioch plans over 300 “Hillside and Estate Residential” houses jutting into open space. Given its sensitive resources SMD believes the Higgins Ranch should be preserved as a condition of other FUA#1 development.


Chaparral Spring Transferred to EBRPD;
Mt. Diablo to Black Diamond Mines Corridor Nearly Complete

By Seth Adams, Director of Land Programs

In August 1990 Save Mount Diablo made its first step north of Marsh Creek Road, in seeking protection of the 333-acre Soule property, which we later named Chaparral Spring. Eighteen years later, with a $1.4 million grant from the Coastal Conservancy, we have transferred the property to East Bay Regional Park District for long term management. First SMD stopped three different private buyers, each interested in subdivision, and proposed an open space corridor between Mt. Diablo and Black Diamond Mines, finally purchasing the property. We began responding to more development proposals north of the mountain and were so successful that the last 4-unit subdivision in the area approved by the county took place in 1993….

…In quick order two other parcels were purchased by the District, adjacent to Black Diamond Mines, shrinking the gap to just one quarter mile. SMD’s 2007 Irish Canyon purchase has the potential to greatly widen the corridor. Last year the Coastal Conservancy agreed to provide a $1.4 million grant so that the Regional Park District could purchase 333-acre Chaparral Spring. The transfer took place in late December 2008. If just one more parcel is acquired, the two parks will be connected.



New Hidden Valley Open Space and the Threatened Tassajara Valley

Hidden Valley Open Space (HVOS) is amazing! A tilted 1,000 acre grassland bowl at the northeast corner of the Windemere development in San Ramon, the Open Space and its creeks drain to Hidden Valley Park. It is almost circled by exposed ridges; in just a few minutes’ walk you can reach world class views of the urban Tri-Valley, and of Mt. Diablo and lands to the east. At sunset, views are truly spectacular.
Approved in 1992, Windemere and Gale Ranch are the 5,979 acre, 11 ,000 unit Dougherty Valley development. Fifty-five percent of Windemere is open space, with 12.5 miles of trail. Parks, trails and open space are just coming online; most of them are unknown. HVOS connects to other Dougherty open spaces, north to Alamo Creek open space—a trail there will lead north toward Mt. Diablo—and south to Windemere Parkway, where the Tassajara Ridge Staging Area is under construction. The center of HVOS is reserved for wildlife: San Joaquin kit fox, tiger salamander, red-legged frog, and burrowing owl. The grassland, with its ground squirrel and rodent populations, and the ridges which force wind currents upward combine to attract lots of raptors: kites, kestrels, hawks, owls and golden eagles—on our last visit we saw a kite and two burrowing owls ‘kiting’ or hovering along the ridge.


4,800 Acres Will Soon Be Protected; East County Habitat Plan Off to a Fast Start

33,000 Acres--52 Square Miles is ultimate goal of plan to Be Preserved

Ten properties totaling 4,800 acres, or seven and a half square miles, of habitat have been acquired or are in contract with several more under consideration. Chosen for wildlife value, most of them are also spectacularly beautiful. Public access is included in the Plan in a variety of ways…

The preliminary conservation strategy in the HCP calls for the acquisition of up to 33,000 new acres, 150% of the area of Mt. Diablo State Park, over the next 30 years. If it works as planned, it will protect land around the State Park and better connect Black Diamond Mines, the Naval Weapons Station, Cowell Ranch State Park, Morgan Territory, Round Valley, Vasco Caves, and Brushy Peak and other open lands to the south.

With East Bay Regional Park District as the key acquisition partner, more than 4,800 acres of land have been acquired or are under contract to be acquired. This total includes three properties (1,270 acres) acquired separately by EBRPD during preparation of the HCP, two properties (353 acres) acquired this summer by EBRPD in partnership with the Habitat Conservancy and five properties (3,222 acres) that are expected to close in late 2009/early 2010. Much of the HCP-funded land will be owned or managed by the Park District, and the Plan includes funding for management and restoration.


Fox Ridge Manor is a 221 acre property, literally a mile wide, fronting Briones Valley Road south of Antioch. It is an incredibly strategic property between Roddy Ranch Open Space and the new Los Meganos State Historic Park. An important wildlife corridor and recreational gap in its own right, Fox Ridge is also part of two remaining gaps in a 60 mile circle of open space we call the Diablo Grand Loop. This beautiful property is home to a variety of endangered species and is crossed by the sinuous Briones Valley Creek before it flows to the new State Park.

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