MARTINEZ, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--John Muir Land Trust (JMLT, jmlt.org) announces 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 has the privately-owned cattle ranch under contract and is seeking to 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 rolling 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 Linus Eukel, Executive Director of John Muir Land Trust. “All of the benefits of conservation literally intersect here. The ranch protects habitat and clean water, offers close-to-home outdoor recreation, and makes critical trail connections that have been on everyone’s wish list for decades.”
The Campaign To Save Almond Ranch is launched with a first commitment of $1 million from the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD, ebparks.org) using funds made available by voters’ approval of Measure WW in 2008 for high priority community park projects. “EBRPD’s contribution is both extraordinarily generous and it 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 Robert Doyle, General Manager of EBRPD. “Adding Almond Ranch to the places already acquired on Franklin Ridge by JMLT would be the perfect outcome,” confirms Colin Coffey, EBRPD’s Board Member representing Ward 7 in northern Contra Costa. “We’re excited to make the lead contribution.”
Almond Ranch adds one of the most important missing segments to the visionary 550-mile Bay Area Ridge Trail (ridgetrail.org) that seeks to encircle the entire Bay Area. “This is a critical missing link of the Bay Area Ridge Trail and a beautiful scenic property,” adds Doyle, a founding board member of the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council. Other trail systems benefit as well. Almond is one of only two remaining acquisitions needed to complete the 50-mile Carquinez Strait Scenic Loop Trail, a beautiful loop around the waters and 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 (1,758 acres to the north), Briones Regional Park (6,255 acres to the south), and the 10,000-acre area to the west known as the Franklin Ridge Wildlife and Trail Corridor that JMLT defined for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife fifteen years ago.
JMLT has been acquiring properties along Franklin Ridge since its founding in 1989. 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. Adding Almond would create a 1,380-acre integrated landscape that offers delightful recreation for human visitors and an unbroken wildlife corridor for the myriad species who thrive here.
“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.”
Easily accessed from nearby urban neighborhoods and visible from Highway 4, the ranch’s highest peak rises 800 feet, some 300 feet higher than Mt. Wanda. Here are sweeping panoramic views of the Carquinez Strait and Bay Delta region to the north, Mount Diablo and the distant Sierra Nevada to the east, the rolling hills of Briones Regional Park to the south, and San Francisco Bay to the west. The land’s varied terrain includes hilly grasslands, forested valleys of oak-bay woodlands, scrub plant communities and riparian areas. Few places better exemplify the rolling hills and nestled valleys of the East Bay.
The property provides rich habitat for a variety of native, rare and special-status species. The land is designated critical habitat for the Alameda whipsnake, a federally threatened species. Stock ponds on the ranch support another threatened species: the California red-legged frog. An intact corridor along Franklin Ridge better supports predators such as mountain lions, American badgers, and gray foxes. Patrolling overhead are golden eagles, white-tailed kites and various species of hawks.
As part of the Alhambra Creek Watershed, Almond Ranch protects the quality of water and stability of the ecosystem. The headwaters of Strentzel Creek are situated here. This seasonal stream meanders on—and off—the property, winding its way onto West Hills Farm and Mount Wanda before flowing into Alhambra Creek. Named after Dr. John Strentzel, 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 on top of its hills and into its forested dales.
Jake Schweitzer, Senior Ecologist for Vollmar Natural Lands Consulting, knows the ridge well and will be conducting a detailed resource assessment when plants are blooming and animals are active. “We will have cameras to capture charismatic megafauna,” he says. “Mountain lions, bobcats, foxes, badgers and coyotes are vital to a balanced ecosystem.”
“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. The true value of Almond Ranch to the East Bay’s integrated system of trails, parks, and preserved public lands is immeasurable. We’re optimistic about reaching the $4 million goal, but obviously, we need every single donation, small and large!”
Visiting Almond Ranch
Almond Ranch is private property and is not open to the general public. Contact John Muir Land Trust at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
About John Muir Land Trust
John Muir Land Trust (JMLT) 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. JMLT believes that the vitality of our open spaces is essential to the health of our earth, air, water, native plants and animals — and all of us.