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 family looking at their phones as they walk along a trail. One person holds a paper map. It's a sunny day.

A family enjoys a Jenny Hammer geocaching hike at the 2019 Hillside Festival. Photo by Dave Weinstein

Discover hidden poems in our Hillside and all around our town.

Are you interested in treasure-hunting during your walks in El Cerrito? Jenny Hammer and Tim Aaronson of El Cerrito Trail Trekkers have refreshed their Hidden Poetry geocaching hike series.

These hikes were sponsored by Trail Trekkers and the El Cerrito Arts and Culture Commission and were a local twist to the international sport of geocaching.

Use the GPS coordinates and the maps at Trekkers website (under the PLACES/HIDDEN POETRY GPS tab) to find the hidden containers, read the poems inside, and then sign and date the log sheets.

There are twenty-six caches with poems by, and short biographies of, the poets all over our city. In Hike Series One, read poems of California poets laureate, starting with the first one, Ina Coolbrith (1915).

Series Two will bring you to nine United States poets laureate, and Series Three highlights eight of our local poets. Use the GPS function of your smart phone or other device to find the caches. Afterward, if you’d like, post your comments at:
https://www.facebook.com/El-Cerrito-Trail-Trekkers-115184015302188/

Happy hunting!


An interpretive sign overlooking a scene of golden hills dotted with oak trees. You can see houses in the distance.

The El Cerrito Rotary Club funded and helped install interpretive signs, which were the basis for Trekkers tour of the Hillside natural Area. Photo by Glen Nethercut

Rotary Walk Virtual Tour Is Available

At Trekker’s annual meeting in July, we took a virtual tour of the Rotary Interpretive Walk. Now you can take that tour with geologist Gary Prost, birder Tara McIntire, and entomologist Eddie Dunbar. Enjoy!

At Trekker’s annual meeting in July, we took a virtual tour of the Rotary Interpretive Walk. Now you can take that tour with geologist Gary Prost, birder Tara McIntire, and entomologist Eddie Dunbar. Enjoy!

Do you have a favorite tree?

Sure you do! Whether it is a street tree, a tree in a city park or the Hillside Natural Area, a tree in a shopping center, or one in your front yard, why not share it with the world?

The city of El Cerrito’s Urban Forest Committee wants to publicize the city’s trees and urban canopy this spring, in honor of Arbor Week, March 7-14. Other Arbor Week plans include tree plantings and a virtual”Ask the El Cerrito Arborist” presentation and discussion.

Committee chair Mary Torrusio plans to post images of “local trees that community members especially enjoy or admire’ on Instagram. Send your favorite tree on to Mary, and tell her why this tree is special: metorrusio@gmail.com.


A map of the Hillside Natural Area showing the Douglas entry

Large “gateway” signs such as this are to be installed this year, as well as smaller trail signs at other points throughout the Hillside Natural Area. They were designed by the National Park Service.

Trail Trekkers’ 2021 goals and 2020 accomplishments

Trail work. Once health conditions allow, Trekkers hopes to improve several trails both inside and outside the Hillside Natural Area. We are developing a series of “shovel-ready” trail projects. Interested in trail building or maintenance? Let us know.

Hikes are on hold for now, but we are planning a Hillside Festival that would run throughout the month of May and include both self-guided events and virtual hikes via Zoom. When it is possible to resume hikes with real leaders, Trekkers will do so.

Directional trail signs to be installed in the Hillside Natural Area. These were designed for us by the National Park Service but installation has been repeatedly delayed, most recently by the pandemic and budgetary issues (funding has been allocated from Measure WW bond funds, not the city’s general fund.) Installation is in the hands of the city, and we have been assured the signs will be installed soon.

Fund-raising for the urban path signs. We are continuing to raise funds to install the park Service-designed signs for all the trails in the city outside the Hillside, including stairways. Installation will not occur in 2021.

Preserving Open Space. We will continue to seek the expansion of the Hillside Natural Area through the acquisition of Fairview Open Space. The area is just to the north of Motorcycle Hill, bordered by Fairview Drive and Tamalpais Avenue and by houses that are on Arlington Boulevard. We understand the budgetary constraints facing the city and are seeking alternative funding sources.

Trail Trekkers is working with its Advisory Group to get more people active in our organization. This group was formed at the start of 2020. Our first meeting in January 2021 proved a lively and valuable affair and we will hold them regularly throughout the year. Several members are contributing activities planned for 2021, and several are working on habitat improvement projects. One member is leaving the council to join Trekkers’ board.

Keeping trails, open space and nature front and center. As El Cerrito suffers a debilitating financial crisis and Covid-19 threatens physical, mental, social and fiscal health, it is important to remember that open space and pedestrian routes are not frivolous luxuries but important for human wellbeing. We want policymakers to understand their value, especially as the city grows increasingly populous.

Fire safety. Trekkers will continue to educate people about fire safety, and will continue to remove vegetative fuels from the Hillside Natural Area. We will cooperate with El Cerrito Fire Safe. We will also argue for the value of urban pathways as emergency evacuation routes.

Trail Trekkers is in this for the long haul. When Trekkers was founded 11 years ago we knew that repairing the city’s broken and often ignored system of trails and public paths would take decades. It’s been an eventful and enjoyable 11 years, with major accomplishments and some setbacks.

One of our big accomplishments has been forming a community of people who care about the environment, open space, walking and biking. Join us.

Trail Trekkers’ 2020 accomplishments:

Trail work. The pandemic shut down trail work and other gatherings for much of the year. But with the El Cerrito Rotary Club in the lead, we installed the Rotary Interpretive Walk in the Hillside Natural Area, 15-signs about nature, geology, history and culture. Not only did the Rotary Club supply the funding for the Walk, but its members did the hard labor along with Trekker volunteers.

Trekkers also improved a section of the Live Oak Trail, where the Rotary Walk is located.

In partnership at times with the city’s Environmental Quality Committee and Friends of Five Creeks, we removed dead broom and other flammable materials from the Hillside. Trekkers also spearheaded several individual Cerrito Creek cleanups during Coastal Cleanup Month.

Hillside Benches. The benches that were installed in the Hillside this fall were the result of the El Cerrito Rotary Club’s donation of the Interpretive Walk to Trail Trekkers. Funds left over from the signs paid for the benches. Trekkers played a (small) role in determinimg bench locations.

Map. Trekkers published its map at the end of January, not long before the pandemic hit. We got it into the hands of our members, who get it for free. But efforts to sell it to other were stymied. We could have moved hundreds at the July 4 festival and Solano Stroll.

Jenny K’s gift shop here in town picked it up during the fall and could hardly keep it in stock. We sold out and have gone into a second printing. More stores should have it soon.

Hikes and programs: We led several real hikes at the start of the year, and a few virtual hikes during the shutdown. Our 2020 annual meeting featured a fascinating look at creek restoration by a pioneer in that field. We had to cancel the Hillside Festival in May. We have enjoyed seeing so many people discovering the Hillside Natural Area during this strange time of separation and illness. Many have the Trekker map in hand.

Renaming Hillside Natural Area trails. We worked with city staff and the park and Recreation Commission on renaming several trails in the Hillside.

Organizational work. Trekkers refined its procedures this year, having time on our hands. We also improved our website and our use of social media. This is useful work that makes it easier for us to accomplish our goal of improving life in the city through open space and trails.


 

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.

Thanks!


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.

EL CERRITO TRAIL MAP AVAILABLE

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!

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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