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.
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!
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.
Trail work. We are working to improve several “urban” trails (i.e., those outside of the Hillside Natural Area) in 2022. The Park and Recreation Commission has added completion of the city’s trail network to its work plan, and has a new subcommittee working on that task. That also includes looking at trails whose improvement could require public works involvement (for example, for concrete steps). These could be done in later years, as the city’s finances improve or grants are obtained.
The Park and Recreation Commission is also working on a potential policy revision, in which the city of El Cerrito would recognize the value of its network of trails and determine that impassable trails, as public property and as an amenity, should be improved even if a neighbor or two objects.
We believe the trail network deserves this recognition, and as ever, Trekkers is committed to public outreach, to transparency, and to being a good neighbor. To that end we are revising our outreach policies and materials.
Hikes. Trekkers returned to live hikes in 2021 and we are putting on about one a month these days, including hikes dealing with edible and otherwise useful plants, and with climate change.
Our live annual Hillside Festival is also returning, on Saturday and Sunday May 14 and 15, with hikes delving into a wide range of topics, from native plants to geology. Last year we did a small, virtual festival.
The festival, as ever, is co-sponsored by the city’s Environmental Quality Committee. Unlike in years past, however, Trekkers will fund the festival on our own, not seeking city funds, in response to the city’s financial shortfall.
Directional trail signs to be installed in the Hillside Natural Area. The process to install a wonderful set of way-marking signs in the Hillside Natural Area, which began in 2013 and involved the assistance of the National Park Service, has faced innumerable delays since the city prepared to install them in late 2017. Installation remains in the hands of the city, and we have been assured the signs will be installed soon. Funds have been allocated from a regional bond measure, not from the city’s general fund.
Repairing two damaged/stolen Rotary Interpretive walk signs. Vandals damaged two of the 15 signs that Rotary and we installed in 2021 as gifts to the city. Trekkers is paying for repair and replacement and Rotary will re-install.
Installing the urban path signs. Trekkers hopes to work on this project in 2022, installing simple signs as designed by the National Park Service for several of the urban stairways and paths that wind through the neighborhoods of our city. Trekkers has raised some funds specifically for this purpose and continues to do so. We will seek city approval of the trail names.
Preserving Open Space. We will continue to seek the expansion of the Hillside Natural Area through the acquisition of Fairview Open Space and by obtaining easements on some private in-holdings in the Hillside. Fairview Open Space is just north of Motorcycle Hill, bordered by Fairview Drive and Tamalpais Avenue and by houses on Arlington Boulevard. We understand the budgetary constraints facing the city and will be seeking alternative funding sources.
Habitat protection and fire safety. Trekkers will continue to educate people about fire safety, and will continue to remove vegetative fuels, including French broom, from the Hillside Natural Area.
Trail work. Trekkers did not do substantial trail improvements in 2021, though we worked throughout the year to prepare for such work in 2022 and later. We removed invasive plants from the vicinity of several trails in the Hillside Natural Area.
Habitat improvement and fire safety. Trail Trekkers alerted city officials to the presence of many piles of vegetation in the Madera Open Space area of the Hillside, and in other Hillside areas. Working with the Environmental Quality Green Teams, we hauled out many piles. Identification of other piles led to the Fire Department conducting controlled burns.
We put on many broom pulls throughout the year, some involving Cub Scout Pack 104 and one being an educational broom pull-demonstration with Friends of Five Creeks that pulled in many young people from the El Cerrito 4-H Club.
Map. Trekkers revised its map, publishing a second edition in 2022 of a product first released in 2021. We corrected errors and incorporated newly renamed trails in the Hillside Natural Area. The map sells briskly at several shops, especially at Jenny K’s on Stockton Avenue. Members get it as part of their membership and it is a forever map: members get new editions, and replacements if they lose it.
Hikes and programs: Trekkers led a handful of hikes throughout the year on a variety of topics, and we conducted our Hillside Festival through Zoom. Highlights were a wonderful birding “hike,” and a film in which Howdy Goudey, working with Cub Scout Pack 104, provided information about invasive French broom and demonstrated how to get it out of our Hillside.
One of the great events of the year, and a new Trekker tradition, was our haiku contest and haiku hike, which attracted families to the Hillside.
Open Space. Working with volunteer attorneys Trekkers developed important material showing why any substantial development on the Fairview property, which we hope to add to the Hillside Natural Area, would be difficult due to local, regional, state and federal laws and regulations.
Trekkers also presented ideas about open space preservation to the Park and Recreation Commission, which made preserving open space one of its goals.
— Dave Weinstein, Trekker president
Rufus-sided hopscotch Restless in the trailside brush Bird! Flush out your feast. -- Kristianna Bertelsen