Martinez Top Priority of Conservationists By Jay Dean
Photo by Adam Weidenbach
Martinez Top Priority of Conservationists for Decades
John Muir Land Trust Announces Campaign to Save Almond Ranch
By Jay Dean
John Muir Land Trust (JMLT, jmlt.org) has announced the Campaign To Save Almond Ranch, an effort to protect a stunning 281-acre property south of downtown Martinez that has been a top priority of land conservationists for decades. JMLT must raise $4 million by the end of 2019. Saving Almond Ranch from development, the alternative outcome, would preserve an intact habitat corridor for wildlife, connect important major trails for the very first time, link large conserved landscapes, and open the property’s beautiful hills along the Franklin Ridge to hikers, dog walkers, cyclists, bird watchers, equestrians, and nature lovers of all ages.
“Almond Ranch is the proverbial ‘missing piece,’” says JMLT Executive Director Linus Eukel. “All of the benefits of conservation literally intersect here. The ranch protects habitat and clean water, offers close-to-home outdoor recreation, and makes trail connections that have been on everyone’s wish list for decades.”
The campaign is launched with a first commitment of $1 million from the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) using funds made available by voters’ approval of Measure WW in 2008 for high priority community park projects. “EBRPD’s contribution is extraordinarily generous and demonstrates the importance of this unique place to filling the gaps in the mosaic of the East Bay’s preserved landscapes,” says Eukel. “Few places have been discussed over the years as being so necessary for conservation,” says General Manager of EBRPD Robert Doyle. “Adding Almond Ranch to the places already acquired on Franklin Ridge by JMLT is the perfect outcome,” confirms EBRPD Board Member Colin Coffey. “We’re excited to make the lead contribution.”
Almond Ranch adds a key missing segment to the visionary 550-mile Bay Area Ridge Trail that encircles the entire Bay Area. The ranch is one of only two remaining acquisitions needed to complete the 50-mile Carquinez Strait Scenic Loop Trail, a beautiful trek around the waters atop the rolling hills of two counties. Almond Ranch connects for the first time three large landscapes in Contra Costa County that comprise fully 18,000 acres of protected open space: the combined Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline and Radke Martinez Regional Shoreline, Briones Regional Park, and the area to the west known as the Franklin Ridge Wildlife and Trail Corridor.
JMLT has been acquiring properties along Franklin Ridge for three decades. Almond Ranch is described as the “missing heart” at the intersection of six of these: Dutra, Gustin, Sky, Stonehurst, Mount Wanda, and West Hills Farm. Almond would create a 1,380-acre integrated landscape. “The benefits to the public will be far-reaching,” adds Tom Leatherman, general superintendent of the adjacent John Muir National Historic Site and three other parks. “It allows trail users on Mount Wanda to explore nearby open lands and experience them in new ways. That’s what people tell us they want —new kinds of trails, and new connections.”
Stunning Views & Habitat
Easily accessed from urban neighborhoods, the ranch’s highest peak rises some 300 feet above Mt. Wanda. Here are sweeping panoramic views of the Carquinez Strait and Bay Delta region, Mount Diablo and the distant Sierra Nevada, the rolling hills of Briones Regional Park, and San Francisco Bay. The varied terrain includes hilly grasslands, forested valleys, scrub plant communities, and riparian areas. This is rich habitat for native, rare, and special-status species such as the Alameda whipsnake, a federally threatened species. An intact corridor is better for predators such as mountain lions, American badgers, and gray foxes. Magnificent raptors patrol overhead.
Strentzel Creek meanders on and off the ranch. Named after John Muir’s father-in-law, the waterway — along with stock ponds, seeps and springs — nourishes plants, trees and animals. Muir himself owned nearby lands, and there is no doubt that he enjoyed a few of his famous 40-mile saunters here.
“A year ago we completed the successful Campaign to Save Carr Ranch with the support of thousands of families across the Bay Area,” says Eukel. “Almond Ranch will be just as important to people across the region. We’re optimistic about reaching the $4 million goal but obviously need every single donation, small and large!”
John Muir Land Trust protects and cares for open space, ranches, farms, parkland and shoreline in Contra Costa and Alameda Counties. In a generation, John Muir Land Trust has become one of the leading forces for conservation in northern California. With 3,100 acres protected, many beautiful places in the East Bay are permanently preserved for recreation, wildlife habitat and spectacular scenic views. Visit jmlt.org for more information.