El Cerrito Trail Trekkers

The El Cerrito Trail Trekkers formed in order to build, maintain, publicize and use the little known urban trails of El Cerrito, California. You can support us by  joining or donating, or you can keep up with our progress by getting on our email list.  Read more about us here. Follow us on Twitter @ECTrailTrekkers or Facebook . Read about our accomplishments in 2019 and our goals for 2020 here.

A smiling guy in a safari hat points into a tree

Eddie Dunbar will talk about insects in the Hillside during the meeting. Here he is seen during his insect hike at the last Hillside Festival. Photo by Dave Weinstein.

2021 Trekkers Annual Meeting

Join us at the El Cerrito Trail Trekkers Annual Meeting. On Sunday, January 24 at 4 PM, Trekkers will host a virtual hike in the Hillside Natural Area along the Rotary Interpretive Walk. The trail features a series of informational signs installed a few months ago that were made possible by the El Cerrito Rotary Club.

Trekkers board members Wade Huntley and Barbara Lass will lead the way with photos of the signs and views. We will be joined by geologist Gary Prost, entomologist Eddie Dunbar, and birder and wildlife photographer Tara McIntire, who will tell us more about the geology, insects, and birds of the Hillside area. The Rotary Interpretive Walk is a great addition to the Hillside area, and this presentation will encourage all of us to get out and enjoy the trails this winter.

The “walk” will follow a 15-minute business meeting that will see a treasury report, public comment, a brief discussion of accomplishments and goals, and election of officers.

   Topic: Trail Trekkers Annual Meeting

Time: Jan 24, 2021 04:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)


Trekkers presents its slate of officers and

seeks nominations.

Are you interested in helping preserve and expand El Cerrito’s network of trails and open spaces? We are open to nominations for membership on the Trekkers board of directors. Nominate yourself, or a friend (if that person has agreed to serve).

Our bylaws authorize a board of up to 10 members and our slate only has five, so don’t be concerned about a tight, disputed race. An ideal board member is committed to the cause of improving life in El Cerrito through trails and open space, and has time and energy. The board meets the second Saturday of the month from 10:30 to noon.

We would particularly welcome people who want to lead trail building and other work parties, or are interesting in raising funds to buy open space. But anyone interested in trails is encouraged to consider board membership.

Interested? davidsweinstein@yahoo.com. Nominations are accepted now to the time of the meeting.

Our slate of officers. All current board members would like to remain on the board. We are happy to announce a new member of our slate, Melisssa Hobbs.

Dave Weinstein, president. One of the founders of Trail Trekkers, he is a longtime El Cerrito journalist, a member of the city’s Environmental Quality Committee, president of the El Cerrito Historical Society, and a founder of Friends of the Cerrito Theater.

Wade Huntley is a 21-year El Cerrito resident, a one-time avid backpacker and snow mountaineer, and a committed advocate of environmental preservation. He greatly appreciates the opportunity Trail Trekkers provides to help preserve and enhance use of El Cerrito open spaces.  He is on the faculty of the National Security Affairs department at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey.

Pam Austin. Pam Austin is treasurer of the Trekkers and coordinates the hikes offered by the Trekkers. She is retired after about 30 years in human resources and earlier this year she became a Master Gardener.

Barbara Lass, secretary. “I am a 20 year resident of El Cerrito. I teach anthropology at City College of San Francisco, and my specialty within the field of anthropology is archaeology. I’ve been on the Trail Trekkers board (secretary) for about 2 ½ years. Wade and I enjoy hiking the trails of the Hillside Natural Area and elsewhere in El Cerrito and the East Bay.”

Clare Sheridan, member at large. Clare, her husband and teenage son enjoy walking out their front door and being on one of El Cerrito’s many trails in just a few minutes. She works as an analyst at the University of California’s Office of the President. She is grateful for all of the work that El Cerrito Trail Trekkers has done to make El Cerrito a wonderful place to live and is looking forward to continuing this work.

Melissa Hobbs comes from five generations of women who moved back and forth between Ohio and California. The first generations on both sides came by wagon train in the 1850’s. She has been involved in the environmental movement since April 22, 1970. After earning a BA degree at Kent State University in Ohio, she migrated to California, raised a family in the wilds of western Sonoma County, and worked for the State of California as an assistant claims manager before marrying Albany and her husband Tom in 2010. She is a storyteller, writer, poet and hiker.

Have you renewed your membership? It only costs $20 annually to belong to Trekkers, and $1,000 buys a life membership. Please renew now or join by going to our website and downloading the membership form.

And consider an additional donation as well. Funds go for trail work, to install trail signs, for a fund to purchase additional open space, as well as incidental expenses. Donations are tax deductible as allowed by law.

Dangerous debris removed from Hillside Natural Area

Eleven volunteers attended a Trail Trekkers broom haul and pull just before Halloween rolled in, filling a dumpster with dead broom and piles of wood. We also pulled living broom. In the process we continued to clear a beautiful little spot, dotted with rock outcrops, in the Madera Open Space section of the Hillside Natural Area. The city provided the dumpster and tools.

Broom is an invasive plant that crowds out native plants. It is also highly flammable, as are piles of long dead wood. Still, at least two piles of dead broom and other woody materials remain. One more work party ought to do it, right? Watch this space as we do another, hopefully in December.

Attending a broom work party with Trekkers is about more than doing a good deed. It is a great way to learn about nature, as many of the volunteers are deeply knowledgeable. Come out to the next one and meet some of our city’s more interesting citizens.

John Stashik, owner of Premier Graphics, which printed the Trekkers’ map, delivered the maps to Trekkers in January. Photo by Dave Weinstein

El Cerrito Trail Map is available at Jenny K’s

El Cerrito Trail Trekkers published its first “Map of El Cerrito Public paths, Trails and Stairways” in early 2000  – just in time for pandemic closures to make distribution difficult. The first store to sell the maps just put them on the shelves.  This is Jenny K Gifts, 6921 Stockton Avenue, which is known for supporting all things El Cerrito (“Home of the El Cerrito T Shirt), as well as for its lines of cards, educational toys, casual fashion and more.

Maps sell for $5.99. You can also order them from Trekkers by sending $6 to our treasurer, Pam Austin, 834 Kearney St., El Cerrito 94530.

Originally Trekkers had planned to sell the map at the city’s annual July 4 celebration. We had also planned to have our first ever booth at the Solano Stroll, in part to get the maps into the hands of the public.

Next year we hope!

Hikers on a golden hill pass a bench made out of a huge log

Nine rustic wooden benches have been installed throughout the Hillside Natural Area thanks to the El Cerrito Rotary Club. Photo by Dave Weinstein

Rotary Club benches are the latest amenity in the Hillside

Back in 2014 when Trail Trekkers, working with the El Cerrito High Mountain Biking Team, Trust for Public Land and the city managed to acquire the 8-acres Madera Open Space and add it to the Hillside Natural Area, an agreement tied to federal funding was reached that protected all of the Hillside area from ever being developed – ever. But that doesn’t mean no benches.

El Cerrito Rotary Club, which funded the recently installed Rotary Interpretive Trail in the Hillside in partnership with Trekkers, found that project coming in under budget. Funding for the trail came as a grant to Trekkers.

Lee Prutton of Rotary and Stephen Prée with the city determined that installing rustic benches would be a great use for the funds. Next time you are in the Hillside, see if you agree.

a man chopping brush on a steep hillside

Improving a Hillside trail can be a satisfying, social experience.

One last broom bashing in the Hillside. Please join us!

Over the past two months Trekker volunteers have removed many piles of dead, invasive and flammable broom plants from the Hillside Natural Area. Still, a few piles remain. Some were only spotted after we hacked through stands of invasive artichoke. And while we are at it, let’s uproot young, tender shoots of broom before they grow into monsters. Invasive plants harm habitat and cause fire danger.

We will supply tools, gloves, tarps, and more. Bring water! Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Attendance limited. Wear a mask. Keep your distance. Enjoy! Meet on Madera Circle, just downhill from Madera Elementary School. Rsvp required: Davidsweinstein@yahoo.com.

A man standing on top of a heap of brush in a dumpster

Volunteer Howdy Goudey tamps down debris in the dumpster so we can cram in more.

A sere California hillside with live oaks along the ridge

This area of rocks and oak was cleared of a large broom pile in the Hillside Natural Area. Photos by Dave Weinstein

Broom Bashing Continues

Sept. 21, 2020: Broom bashers filled one dumpster and will return in October with another. Six Trail Trekker volunteers managed to fill most of a 20-cubic-yard dumpster with dead broom and other shrub and tree debris that had been piled up for a couple of years at the top of Madera Open Space, part of the Hillside Natural Area.

The work party took place September 20, a week after the originally scheduled date, when smoke made working outdoors a bad idea.

It’s amazing what can get done in two hours. But several piles remain. Trekkers is scheduling a follow up broom haul and pull for October at a date to be set. Because of the pandemic these work parties require an rsvp as attendance is limited and participants must keep distance and wear masks.

Trekkers thanks the city of El Cerrito for its partnership in this event.

We need volunteers to help improve this habitat and lessen fire risk. The work is deeply satisfying. The area is beautiful, with rock outcrops, views and oaks. Email Dave Weinstein to be on the list. davidsweinstein@yahoo.com.

Members of the El Cerrito Rotary Club and Trail Trekkers installed the Rotary Walk signs this month. Photo by Dave Weinstein

Members of the El Cerrito Rotary Club and Trail Trekkers installed the Rotary Walk signs this month. Photo by Dave Weinstein

El Cerrito’s Rotary Interpretive Trail opens

Should we write about mountain lions or deer? Banana slugs or animal scat? Eucalyptus trees alone? Or eucalyptus and other invasive plants? If nature signs are in color will they be too intrusive?

After three years of delving into these and other questions, El Cerrito Trail Trekkers and the El Cerrito Rotary Club installed the 15-sign Rotary Interpretive Walk in May in the city’s Hillside Natural Area. The interpretive signs cover a wide variety of topics, from history to geology to flora and fauna.

One important question never came up: Where’s the money coming from? That’s because the Rotary chose this project to fund in an effort to contribute to the local community, something the Club has been doing for decades.

Rotarians did more than fund the signs. Members of the club worked with Trekker volunteers to dig the holes and plant the signs. During this project we adhered to virus safety procedures.

The signs look good, with subtle color that communicates the message but does not blare out. We think they are sized just right.

See them along the Live Oak Trail and tell us what you think. Head into the Hillside from Schmidt Lane and turn left when you spot the first sign. You can also enter the Hillside through the Douglas Drive trailhead, where the interpretive walk ends.

The Rotary provided major inspiration as well as funds, but it was a community effort.

Signs were designed by Jan Byers, and the drawings were by Adam Prost

Authors of the sign text are Susan Schwartz of Friends of Five Creeks, who wrote about creeks, grassland, oaks and shrubs; Tara McIntire, who wrote about red-tailed hawks and towhees; Keli Hendricks of Project Coyote, who wrote about coyotes; Gary Prost of the Northern California Geological Society, who wrote about rocks and geology; Zara McDonald of the Felidae Conservation Fund, who wrote about mountain lions; Dave Weinstein, who wrote about Hillside history and banana slugs; Eddie Dunbar of the Insect Sciences Museum of California, who wrote about dragonflies; and Bev Ortiz of the East Bay Regional Park District, who wrote about the Huchiun people.

Tom Gehling contributed drawings of invasive plants, and Linda Yamane contributed a drawing of a tule dwelling.

The Rotary signs are the first set of signs to be installed in the Hillside Natural Area. Next up are signs designed for us by the National Park Service that will mark each trail.

The first of those to go in will be the large Gateway sign at the Schmidt Lane trailhead of the Forest Brown Trail. And guess who is paying for that one?

El Cerrito Rotary.


photo of entrance to Hillside area with brown and yellow sign

photo: David Ackerly

Virtual Hillside Tree Hike led by David Ackerly

David Ackerly, dean of the Rausser College of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley, leads this illustrated tour of the trees of the Hillside with an eye to how climate change is already at work both worldwide and in our city. The hour-long tour will help you identify the various native and introduced trees, and will provoke thought as David delves into how the natural and civilized worlds are reacting, or may react, as our climate changes.

He discusses how climate and climate change influences native trees, adaptations and responses of different species to fire, and the mix of native and non-native species in the Hillside Natural Area. How will the mix of species change? How should naturalists and policy makers act or react?

David has led this hike for Trekkers both in actuality, and virtually. Naturally, we always prefer getting out into the real world of nature. But you know what? With a virtual tour you can pause, ponder, focus on details.

Once covid is gone Trekkers will be back to real hikes, and we are looking forward to Professor Ackerly leading another for us. Meanwhile, enjoy this on your favorite device.

Hillside Tree Hike, Part 1: https://youtu.be/D791iQFZNws

Hillside Tree Hike, Part 2: https://youtu.be/xezp6h-izy4

Tom and Wade sit at a table, proofing the map

Trekkers Wade Huntley and Tom Gehling give the trail map its final printers proofing before giving the go-ahead to the printer.


Ten years ago when Trail Trekkers first formed, one of our goals was to produce a comprehensive map to the trails of El Cerrito that everyone in town could own and carry with them.

The map is provided free to members. Trekker membership is $20.00 a year for family or $1,000.00 for a lifetime membership.

Maps can also be purchased for $6 each, which includes tax, by sending a check to Pam Austin, Trail Trekker treasurer, 834 Kearney St., El Cerrito CA 94530.

Space does not permit us to thank all of those who helped. Let me start with Steve Bowes, a National Park Service planner and El Cerrito resident who – get this! – first contacted Trekkers in June 2010, before the organization had actually formed during our initial meeting.

“I’m not sure if I will be able to attend the July 15th El Cerrito Trails Working Group meeting,” Steve wrote, “but I am hoping that you could alert the group to  the possibility of applying for assistance with the National Park Service.”

Well, we did apply for assistance and Steve got the job of assisting us and the first thing he did was develop the map that we have refined over the years. Steve has remained involved as an individual, long after official NPS assistance ran out.

Carol Langhauser and Tom Gehling did the work of shepherding the map to completion. Jan Byers, a superb designer, integrated map with photos and text.

And don’t think we have forgotten the several dozen volunteers who, in the early years of Trail Trekkers, walked every path in the city to measure, plot, and describe their parameters. Truly, this map is a community effort.

Help Fund Trekkers in 2020
Signs, signs – and more signs: Help Trekkers pay for them

As El Cerrito Trail Trekkers happily winds up its 10th year as a non-profit organization, you our members have much to brag about. Thanks to you, we have:

  • built several new trails in the Hillside Natural Area, opening areas that had been impassable, including Motorcycle Hill
  • added to the city’s public Hillside Natural Area the formerly private Madera Open Space, which had been threatened by development
  • ensured that the entire Hillside Natural Area will remain open space forever thanks to a deed restriction
  • worked with the National Park Service to develop a citywide trail map and trail signs to be installed soon in the Hillside
  • worked with the Rotary Club to develop the Rotary Interpretive Trail, to be installed next year in the Hillside
  • put on dozens of work parties to improve trails and habitat
  • put on hundreds of free hikes to educate and entertain the public
  • created the Hillside Festival as an important annual event.

Please take part in our annual year-end fundraising campaign. We use funds to buy tools and equipment, pay for insurance, publicize our events and our causes, print maps and other materials, and put on events.

In addition, starting in 2020, we are raising funds to pay for directional trail signs for the public trails and stairways that dot the city’s landscape outside of the Hillside Natural Area. This is an effort that will take several years – but if we don’t start now the signs may never be installed.

So many people in town do not even know about these public paths. Many of these routes do not even appear to be public pathways – unless you are in the know!

The city is paying for the National Park Service-designed signs for the Hillside – but lacks funding for the non-Hillside trails. The signs would be of metal, are designed to be vandal-proof, and would be mounted on posts.

Your donations will support these wayfaring signs and other Trekker projects. Trekkers continues to advocate for preservation of open space, including Fairview Open Space adjacent to the Hillside Area, where a developer wants to build homes.

To donate, send a check made out to ECCF (El Cerrito Community Foundation, our fiscal sponsor), with “Trail Trekkers” in the message line, to our treasurer, Pam Austin, 834 Kearney St., El Cerrito, 94530. Donations are tax deductible as allowed by law.Help Fund Trekkers in 2020

Now Available! El Cerrito Trail Trekkers T-shirts!

 You can now order a Trail Trekkers t-shirt at Copy Central at 1553 Solano Ave. in Berkeley. Simply talk to the manager, Gregg Schmalz, and tell him you want to have a Trail Trekkers shirt printed. It takes about 48 hours. You can have the Trail Trekkers logo printed on the front or the back of the shirt, and you can bring your own shirt (of any color, 50/50 cotton or 100% cotton) or have Copy Central supply the shirt (in white or black only). If you bring your own shirt it costs $14.95 for a white shirt and $19.95 for a colored shirt. Add $5 if Copy Central supplies the shirt. We look forward to seeing you out on the trails in your new shirt!


Volunteers Wanted!

The Trekkers are looking for volunteers to help improve trails and continue building new ones. Let us know if you can help – contact Dave Weinstein at 510-524-1737 or davidsweinstein@yahoo.com.

© 2019 El Cerrito Trail Trekkers Contact