by Dave Weinstein, Trail Trekker president.
During 2017, El Cerrito Trail Trekkers made great strides towards improving the trail and urban pathway network in El Cerrito and in increasing awareness of the trails and the Hillside Natural Area. And Trail Trekker events contributed much to the social fabric of our city.
- Centennial. Trail Trekkers was one of the most active groups in town during the city’s Centennial, putting on eight separate events, including a Creek side history and nature stroll in partnership with Friends of Five Creeks, a Motorcycle Hill work party and historical discussion, a gambling and sin walking tour, and two architectural hikes in partnership with the El Cerrito Historical Society. Trekkers contributed historical materials and a map to the Centennial Time Capsule. Jenny Hammer led a centennial-themed hike, Historical Pavers of Highway 40
- Rotary Interpretive Trail. Trail Trekkers partnered with the El Cerrito Rotary Club to create an interpretive trail dealing with nature and history in the Hillside Natural Area. Rotary Foundation, a regional arm of Rotary International, has provided a grant of $10,000, which Trekkers helped to match by raising $4,000, with an additional $1,000 coming from the El Cerrito Rotary. Mark Miner and Mollie Hazen are working with Lee Prutton of El Cerrito Rotary overseeing design, and the trail should be installed next year.
- Completing Motorcycle Hill Trail. We finally helped create stairs at the bottom of Motorcycle Hill Trail. We thank pro bono designer of the stairs, architect Glenn Wood of El Cerrito and the firm for which he works, SGPA Architecture and Planning. We also thank everyone on the city, including Yvetteh Ortiz and Ana Bernardes, who helped install the steps. Mollie Hazen, Jenny hammer and Pam Austin coordinated the successful celebratory ribbon cutting.
- Trail work. We organized and ran half a dozen work parties, ranging from trail building and maintenance to broom pulling in the Hillside Natural Area. Mark Miner spearheaded work parties at Madera Open Space, at Terrace Cutoff, and other locations. Pam Austin worked with the Girl Scouts to improve native plantings along the Tassajara Stairs.
- Preserving Open Space. We continued to organize opposition to a proposed tract of mini-mansions on Fairview Open Space. In an effort to preserve 15 acres of wild land just to the north of the Hillside Natural Area, Trekkers met with a revived group named ECHO (El Cerrito Hillside Organization) to strategize fighting a plan to build 38 homes there. As we did two years ago with the Madera Open Space, we hope to add this land instead to the city’s Hillside Natural Area.
- The fourth annual Hillside Festival was a success, attracting hundreds of people, including many families. The festival generated about $1,100 to fund Hillside improvements. We thank the city’s Environmental Quality Committee and Parks and Recreation Commission for co-sponsoring. We also thank the many organizations and individuals who led hikes, discussions, or otherwise took part: the Community Garden Network, Friends of Five Creeks, the Northern California Geological Society, National Park Service ranger Naomi Torres, the Environmental Quality Committee, Janet Gawthrop of the California Native Plant Society, metal detecting enthusiast Bill Barr, Boy Scout Troop 104, poet Jenny Hammer, Dog Scouts of America, poet and performer Kirk Lumpkin, and Ken Hayes and his Imaginary Friends, a trio with Tom Cline and Ann Wright, Ralph Boniello of the Tree Commission, the El Cerrito Historical Society, Robert Schaadt of the EQC, and Nicole Becker from Ojas Yoga Center.
- Hikes. In addition to the Hillside Festival, Trail Trekkers led more than two dozen hikes during the year, ranging from tours of the natural landscape on Albany Hill, to a hike past the city’s small but beautiful waterfalls, to an architectural tour of storybook-style homes, to a hidden Geo-caching poetry hike. Our hikes are free to all. Particularly valuable in 2017 were two It’s Our Fault hikes led by Jenny Hammer with a seismic geologist, Dr. David P. Schwartz, exploring the Hayward Fault.
- A new hike leader. We always need good hike leaders and we found a gem this year. Alina Constantinescu has emerged as one of our best and most enthusiastic hike leaders, with hikes characterized by good cheer and much social interaction.
- We improved our publicity and community outreach through our website, run by webmaster Tom Gehling, and thanks to communications director Mollie Hazen who successfully publicized our many Centennial and other events.
- At our annual meeting in 2017, Keli Hendricks from Project Coyote dispelled many myths about these beautiful, elusive coyotes that live among us and provided valuable tips about peaceful coexistence.
- Trail Trekkers has been taking part in a citywide park planning process. Mark Miner, a member of the Trekkers board, has been serving on a city committee, the Parks and Recreation Facilities Master Plan Citizen Advisory Group. Our comments have helped focus the effort on trails and open space issues.
- Members of the board of Trail Trekkers deserve recognition for all the hard work, time, skills, efforts and commitment they gave individually and as a team this past year.
- Contributors. We wish to thank the many donors who contributed during the year, to Trail Trekkers itself, to our special Hillside maintenance and improvement fund, and to our special effort to fund the Rotary Interpretive Trail.