The East Bay Regional Park District has formalized its planned acquisition of hundreds of acres of sought-after property that is set to provide increased access between Mount Diablo State Park and Morgan Territory, as well as much of the Tri-Valley.
The $11.4 million purchase of the 768-acre Finley Road Ranch property was finalized on April 24, in line with the planned timeline following the district's exercising of the purchase option on March 24.
"The acquisition is an important step toward a long-desired staging area at the end of Finley Road," EBRPD Director John Mercurio, whose Ward 6 includes the San Ramon Valley, said in an April 27 announcement. "Access to western Morgan Territory Regional Preserve and southern Mount Diablo State Park has been limited over the years and this property is an important step toward improving public access."
The move to exercise the purchase option and formalize the park district's acquisition of the property came following the award of a $7 million Coastal Conservancy grant for the purchase in February, as well as the unanimous and enthusiastic approval of EBRPD directors at their March 7 meeting.
"I'm really happy that we have these grant opportunities," EBRPD Board President Dennis Waespi said ahead of the March 7 vote to approve plans to acquire the property. "I love these ... we're making these incredible partnerships."
Ward 5 Director Olivia Sanwong, whose district includes the southern Tri-Valley, said that she was eager to see the park district's development of the property increase accessibility between the state park and regional trails near Dublin and Pleasanton, as well as to BART.
"I think that there's a lot of interest to connect all of these trails to Mount Diablo and also to be able to go from the BART station to Mount Diablo," Sanwong said on March 7. "I think it's going to be such a good opportunity for park users and certainly as we continue to look at that opportunity, I hope that we'll see updates here at the board."
However, as Mercurio drew attention to on March 7, there is still a long way to go before members of the public will have access to the property and the state park beyond.
"The one thing I can say for certain is it probably won't be soon," EBRPD chief of planning Brian Holt said on March 7. "Because it does take a long time to get the permitting in place, to get the design done, and really to work through the resource agencies to get the permitting that's necessary. If I've learned one thing in this role, it's not to over-promise on when we can get public access to some of these sites, and it's a challenging process."
Mercurio echoed Sanwong's interest in increasing access to the state park and EBRPD sites and BART, and pointed to the opportunities for long-distance hikes that connecting existing trails and parks could have.
"If you really think about it, that prop when it's open provides a key link in a potential really, really long hike," Mercurio said on March 7. "And I don't know if it's just me, but it kind of feels like long-distance hiking is really coming up in the world in the last so many years ... This is an area here where we can actually train for long distance hikes outside of California and other places because the trails are so long."
Holt said that the next steps would be for workers to evaluate the hundreds of acres of newly acquired property in order to start developing a specific vision for the site.
"We will begin doing whatever resource studies are needed on the property to sort of understand what the opportunities and constraints are," Holt said. "Traditionally at the park district our process is to develop a land use plan or a land use plan amendment, something along those lines, or to move forward with a design of staging area, that type of thing."
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