Newsfront - September 23, 2005
Sycamore Valley preserve opening Sunday
700 acres for hiking, biking and enjoying the views
by Dolores Fox Ciardelli
The latest jewel is being officially added to the crown of the East Bay Regional Park District on Sunday.
Sycamore Valley Open Space Regional Preserve will be dedicated and have an ice cream social for the whole family from 1-3 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 25. The event takes place at the park's main entrance at Sycamore Valley Park on Holbrook Drive, and the public is invited to celebrate this opening, which has been 20 years in reaching fruition.
"It's an open space area for enjoying nature and getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city," said Jim Wolf, park supervisor. "We've just finished building three trails and are hoping to build another additional trail."
The 700-acre park is divided into two segments, split by Camino Tassajara: Sherburne Hills to the south with 328 acres and Short Ridge to the north with 368 acres both have undulating hills with views west across the San Ramon Valley to Las Trampas Regional Wilderness. The elevation is 1,000 feet at some points.
"It's an area that has farming and ranching history," said Wolf. "We are preserving the ranching heritage of the area."
The open space is planned for hiking, bicycling, horseback riding and nature study. Horses are allowed but there is no equestrian staging area as of yet. Dogs are allowed off-leash once they pass the entrance.
The land is labeled an open space preserve because it will have trail access but no developed recreational facilities. Restrooms, garbage cans and water are available at Sycamore Valley Park for the north segment. On the left side of the trail entrance is an information panel that will have park maps and rules plus information about resource protection.
Planning for the park began in the early 1980s when some residents became concerned about losing the rural ambiance of Sycamore Valley because of all the developments being built. As a result, the Danville Town Council adopted the Sycamore Valley Specific Plan enabling open space to be saved on the ridgelines. Besides the 700 acres owned by the Park District, other areas are preserved by private homeowners' associations.
The land use plan developed by the town specified four goals:
* Maintain the open grasslands as working ranchland;
* Provide trails for public recreation;
* Minimize wildfire risks to neighboring homes; and
* Conserve the native wildlife.
Sycamore Valley is one of 65 regional parklands operated by Park District, totaling more than 95,000 acres of public land distributed throughout Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. They include 1,150 miles of trails and 29 inter-park regional trails. To find out more, visit www.ebparks.org.
But first visit the newest open space preserve - Sycamore Valley.
History of the area
The San Ramon and Sycamore valleys were populated by a Bay Miwok-speaking tribe called Tatcan when the Spanish arrived in the mid-1700s. Longtime landowner Don Wood said he remembered hearing about stone mortars reportedly found by his family in the mid-1900s. The valleys became grazing land for Mission San Jose, after it was established in 1797 by the Spanish Franciscans; when the Mexican government freed itself from Spain in 1835, the former mission lands were divided into two ranchos, both called Rancho San Ramon
The first American settlement in the vicinity of Sycamore Valley Open Space is attributed to Leonard Eddy in 1850. Later the property was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Philip Mendenhall, who built a house in 1853 near Sycamore Creek, just south of present-day Camino Tassajara. In 1862, Charles and Cynthia Wood moved their family into the house and started a farm. Over the next century and a half, the Wood family farmed here and came to own most of what is now the Sycamore Valley Open Space Regional Preserve. Its most famous family member is Charlotte Wood, who grew up on the farm and taught all eight grades at Sycamore School on the Wood property. In 1950, the new Charlotte Wood Middle School was named after her. Neighboring farms were owned by the Sherburne, Magee and Farralley families.
The Woods grew wheat, barley, fruits and grapes, and raised cattle, sheep, hogs, chickens and horses, with crops on the ridge tops and lower slopes. In the 1950s, the family planted 90 acres of Sunol-grass on the steeper slopes, which was recommended by the U.S. Soil Conservation Service for erosion control. It was later found that the grass retained water, leading to the potential to make the soil prone to landslides.
Most of the Wood family farmlands were subdivided in recent decades, with the hilly regions kept as open space. The developers of Meadow Creek and Wood Ranch (south) dedicated 328 acres to the East Bay Regional Park District in 1989, the Sherburne Hills Unit, and the district continued grazing to reduce wildfire danger and to control weeds. For the last 15 years, the property has been leased to a rancher who has grazed a small herd of cattle there. The town of Danville offered the Park District another 255 acres remaining north of Sycamore Valley Park and School, developed in the early 1990s. Also in 1998, the developers of Wood Ranch (north) gave another 106 acres to the district. The Park District reintroduced cattle grazing to this section, the Short Hills Unit.
--Sycamore Valley Land Use Plan