Tri-Valley Conservancy, a land trust founded in 1994, has managed to protect thousands of acres for agriculture, parks and wildlife even as the area has drawn more residents, which is why the Pleasanton Weekly named it the 2019 Hero for Environmental Stewardship. It also educates the public and advocates for the need to conserve land.
The Conservancy celebrated its 25th year with a fundraising bash earlier this month, Jeans & Jewels: Rockin' the Ranch, an elegant event that encouraged comfy clothing, held at Casa Real Event Center.
"It was exceedingly successful," executive director Laura Mercier reported. "Everybody who attended was very generous."
The evening raised $90,000 for Tri-Valley Conservancy's Youth in Nature Program, which teaches fourth-graders the wonders of natural spaces. Three sessions are held in the classroom, then students go on a field trip for views of the valley and to see open spaces and trails, and the program ends again in the classroom.
Now Tri-Valley Conservancy is focused on the bridge construction in Sycamore Grove Park in Livermore that will link 25,000 acres of open space with a 44-mile trail through five parks: Sycamore Grove, Del Valle Regional Park, Ohlone Regional Wilderness, Sunol Regional Wilderness and Mission Peak Regional Preserve.
The trail, which has entailed two decades of planning, will be for hikers, equestrians, cyclists, strollers and people with disabilities, and will also give wildlife the interconnected habitat it needs to survive.
"Right now we are in the final stages of our bridge, to be opened Dec. 12," Mercier said.
She noted that Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty and his chief of staff Shawn Wilson were instrumental in making donations at Jeans & Jewels as well as working on the $1.3 million funding for the bridge.
The Conservancy keeps a close eye on urban growth boundaries and the impact on cultivated lands, particularly vineyards but also range lands, to protect these critical areas as the community grows.
In the last 25 years, Mercier said she has seen an increased awareness of the Tri-Valley Conservancy. Since the population among Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin, Sunol and San Ramon has increased nearly one-third since 2005, the need to protect lands has never been more critical, she pointed out.
Land trusts protect land directly by buying or accepting donations of land or conservation easements, and the Conservancy has helped landowners develop conservation plans based on their particular situations and financial circumstances. It also helps determine a property's conservation value and future ownership.
The Tri-Valley Conservancy is shifting to focus on the economic vitality of the land and its growers, Mercier said, and next year's big event will be Livermore Valley Uncorked on April 16. This celebration of the wine industry will include unlimited wine tasting, hors d'oeuvres and a chance to meet winemakers and growers.
"We want to showcase the business of Livermore Valley grapes and promote it -- and attract people from outside the Valley," Mercier said.
The Conservancy is working on several projects involving California Department of Fish and Wildlife as well as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to both preserve the land and keep agriculture viable, Mercier said. The trick is to keep a balance between development needs and preserving the lands for future generations.
"There's always that balancing act," she remarked.
This year's updated "Mission and Vision" includes strategies to keep the locally grown food and wine, fresh air, clean water, and parks and trails that only open spaces can provide.
"We are excited to help our supporters make the most impact by prioritizing projects to leave the Tri-Valley a better place for you, wildlife and future generations," Mercier said.
Visit trivalleyconservancy.org to learn more about the land trust, including opportunities to volunteer and to donate.
* Tri-Valley Conservancy's work to maintain open space has resulted in the return of threatened species including the burrowing owl, the San Joaquin kit fox, American badgers and Tulle elk.
* The Conservancy is focusing on agribusiness in the area, mainly vineyards but also olives and pistachios. Prohibition severely impacted the Livermore Valley: It had more than 50 wineries at the beginning of the 1900s, and by 1933 only 12 remained. By the late '60s, there were only 1,500 acres of vines and six wineries.
* To receive Tri-Valley Conservancy e-newsletters, visit trivalleyconservancy.org/news/e-news/.
* The Conservancy accepts donations of vehicles. Call 1-888-686-4483 or donate on its website.