Land preservation group wants to buy 'missing link' in Bay Area trail network

MARTINEZ, Calif. (KGO) -- An East Bay land preservation group is trying to acquire a 281-acre parcel of land that they say is the missing piece of a vast network of Bay Area trails.

Atop Mt Wanda, near John Muir's homestead in Martinez, hikers can look across a vast pastoral landscape of fields flowers and trees in the undulating hills of the East Bay.

The executive director of the John Muir Land Trust and the general manager of East Bay Regional Parks District hiked to a locked gate. It's private property - Almond Ranch- and they want to buy it for $4 million.

Linus Eukel, executive director of John Muir Land Trust, said "I can't say enough about this property because it connects everything over and above all the habitat preservation."

Acquiring Almond Ranch would also add a critical missing link to a long envisioned 550-mile Bay Area Ridge Trail that would encircle the entire Bay Area.

Jay Dean with the John Muir Land Trust said, "It's badly needed and it's a remarkable 281-acre property literally at the intersection of so many conserved landscapes. You've got the Franklin Ridge Corridor, Briones, Carquinez Strait up here. We've got the Bay Area Ridge Trail going right through it. It stops right at the closed gate that we want to open forever for everyone."

East Bay Regional Parks District has kicked in $1 million to jump start the effort -- money that comes from a 2008 voter initiative to preserve land here.

Robert Doyle, general manager of the East Bay Regional Parks District, said, "This is a critical acquisition that's been everyone's priority for a really long time, and the land trust was able to negotiate an option with the property owner so we are going to try to raise that money."

They have until the end of 2019 to do it or the land could sprout houses instead of wildflowers right here in John Muir's backyard.

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