Celebrating Fifteen Years: The Greenbelt
The Bay Area’s Greenbelt functions to protect all that we value in the Bay Area.
It provides clean air, clean water, recreation and education. It is the home for our wildlife, the spine of our skyline, and the space we play in.
The Conservancy and its partners have made significant strides towards permanently protecting the region’s essential habitats, watersheds, and open spaces. Over a quarter of our region’s 4.3 million acres are now protected, making the Bay Area one of the most “natural” urban landscapes in the world. Through 112 land acquisitions covering approximately 85,000 acres, the Conservancy, public land managers and land trusts have protected critical wildlife habitat and connecting corridors, secured open space and viewshed lands, and preserved the bay area’s ranching and agricultural heritage.
Rising above the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the ridges of the Coast Range and the Central Valley, Mount Diablo is at once a scenic landmark, a premier outdoor recreation area, and an island of biodiversity. It is home to 253 vertebrate animal species, while its 900 plant species – three quarters of which are native – represent one tenth of the native plants found in California. More than 150 species are rare or threatened, with 11 found only here.
Since the late 1990s, the Conservancy has partnered with Save Mount Diablo, California State Parks, the East Bay Regional Park District, the East Contra Costa Habitat Conservancy and others to conserve portions of Mount Diablo under threat from encroaching development. We have provided funding assistance for the conservation acquisitions of properties including Clayton Ranch, Silva Ranch, Wright Ranch, the Mount Diablo Gateway Parcel, Mangini Ranch, Chaparral Spring, and Bertagnolli Ranch. These properties total nearly 2,200 acres, significantly expanding the amount of essential protected lands on Mount Diablo.
With ridge-to-ocean views, four miles of creek corridors, and excellent trail connections to an adjacent preserve, thousand-acre Mindego Hill proved a critical addition to the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District’s network of parks in the Santa Cruz Mountains. One of only 10 locations statewide known to provide habitat for a robust population of the endangered San Francisco garter snake, the property was purchased with Conservancy assistance in 2008. Protection of Mindego Hill has been a priority for the District and Peninsula Open Space Trust for over 30 years.
Since then, the District and POST have worked to plan for the property’s future, raising funds to construct the necessary improvements to allow public access. The District expects to provide parking on adjacent property the District and POST acquired in 2011, partially funded with a grant from the Conservancy. The plan envisions a trail to the top of Mindego Hill, which will soon give the public a view of the Pacific Ocean and surrounding hills that is truly awe-inspiring.
In 2003, the Sonoma Land Trust, over six hundred local donors, the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, the Wildlife Conservation Board, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and the Conservancy successfully averted a very real threat – a major casino resort development at Sears Point along Highway 37. Thanks to this tremendous effort, the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria’s generous cooperation, and two subsequent conservation acquisitions, Tolay Creek will now forever connect from its headwaters down through the watershed to a seven-mile stretch of protected baylands. The acquisitions of Sears Point, Roche Ranch, and Tolay Lake Ranch protected over 5,700 acres of wildlife habitat, including oak woodlands, grasslands, open meadows, riparian habitat, and wetlands, and secured access to panoramic views of the Bay and its surrounding peaks. Within these protected lands lies 200-acre Tolay Lake, the only remaining freshwater lake in the San Pablo Bay watershed and one of the most prolific sites in the country for Native American carved rock charmstones, used for ceremonial and other purposes up to 4,000 years ago.
“The legacy of our cooperative planning and the Conservancy’s support will be generations learning to appreciate and sustain the unique natural, historical and cultural resources at Tolay Lake.”
Greg Sarris, Chairman, Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria
The steep grasslands, oak woodlands and riparian corridors of the Vallejo-Swett, King, and Eastern Swett Ranches form the 3,930-acre core of a band of protected open space, rich wildlife habitat, and rangeland between the cities of Benicia, Vallejo and Fairfield. This band of open space, known as the Sky Valley-Cordelia Hills Open Space, is located close to Interstates 680 and 80 and was identified by local planning groups in the early 1990s as an important urban buffer. In a series of acquisitions starting in the early 2000s, the Solano Land Trust purchased these three ranches from PG&E with funding provided by the Conservancy, the Moore Foundation, the Wildlife Conservation Board and Solano County. The Land Trust actively manages the three ranches and conducts guided hikes for the public.