Trail of the Week 22: Liberty to Ohlone Path (#45)

The Ohlone Greenway and Liberty to Ohlone path ]TJ Gehling]

The Ohlone Greenway and Liberty to Ohlone path   [TJ Gehling]

The distribution of paths in the East Bay is closely related to the current and former routes of trains, streetcars and buses. Many trails in Berkeley and Kensington provided direct access to former Key System train stops, but it is the re-purposing of train right-of-ways as pedestrian and bike paths that concern us today. The Emeryville Greenway and the Bay Trail in southwest Richmond both follow the route of Union Pacific lines, and the Ohlone Greenway in Berkeley, Albany and here in El Cerrito follows a former Southern Pacific Santa Fe right-of-way.

The top at Liberty [TJ Gehling]

The top at Liberty [TJ Gehling]

So if it were the mid 1960s and you were a kid heading west on Eureka with the intention of reaching the library by the shortest route, getting to the top of the retaining wall at Liberty gave you a choice. You could, of course, just head north on Liberty to Stockton and you are nearly there.  But if your 10 year old big brother is leading the way the choice is clear – down the hill, on one side of the wall or the other, and along the railroad tracks. The way on the southside eventually became the Eureka Bike path, and on the north side was this week’s Trail of the Week, what we now call the Liberty to Ohlone path.

Of course it didn’t have a name then, and even if it had, the idea of the Ohlone Greenway was far in the future. At that time BART was planned but not yet built, and in fact the Southern Pacific Santa Fe tracks were in use until late in the 70s. A predecessor of today’s greenway was eventually built on the west side of the BART tracks, parts of which is still in use, but in the 60s the trail down the hill was better established than the one along the tracks. The Ohlone Greenway proper had to wait for the removal of the tracks.

Looking up [TJ Gehling]

Looking up [TJ Gehling]

The Liberty trail is much as it was then. The oak at the top is larger, the bushes are bushier, and the bottom is more slippery and muddy after a rain, but the basic route is the same. In contrast the Bike Ramp path was not the route of the trail on the south side of the retaining wall. On that side people tended to go straight down the slope next to the wall. The work of erosion can still be seen there, and erosion is a problem on the Liberty trail too. There it has caused the bottom of the trail to recede into the hill, making it both steeper and more slippery. This can only get worse with time, but the installation of treads as steps might be helpful and is a possible future project for the Trekkers.

It is very easy to miss this trail. On Liberty cars are often parked in front of the entrance. It is best to look for the end of the chain-link fence under a large, spreading oak. It is more or less across from the multiplex at 712-716 Liberty. At the bottom, the recent refurbishing of the Ohlone Greenway has left the entrance on the northbound (east) lane of the path just south of where it becomes one path again. Easy to miss, but worth a look if you are going that way. One Trekker member still uses it to go to the library, just as his brother showed him almost 50 years ago.

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One thought on “Trail of the Week 22: Liberty to Ohlone Path (#45)

  1. Pingback: Trail of the Week 24: Del Norte to Ohlone Way (#13) | El Cerrito Trail Trekkers

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