Trail Trekkers’ 2018 accomplishments:
- Rotary Interpretive Trail. We largely completed the content for this series of nature and cultural signs, which are being funded and were inspired by the El Cerrito Rotary Club. Much thanks to Lee Prutton for coordinating this on behalf of Rotary, and to Mollie Hazen of Trekkers. Artist Adam Prost has provided marvelous illustrations, ranging from coyotes to damselflies. Jan Byers, the artist who also has designed our festival brochures, is designing the signs. Our expert contributors include Susan Schwartz, Eddie Dunbar, Keli Hendricks, Bev Ortiz, Dave Weinstein, Tara McIntire, Gary Prost and Zara McDonald.
- Preserving Open Space. We continued to organize opposition to a proposed tract of mini-mansions on Fairview Open Space. After two years of silence, the group that wants to build 38 large homes on the 15-acre Fairview Open Space submitted a new proposal to the city. Trail Trekkers opposes any development on the site, which is the northernmost and last undeveloped section of El Cerrito’s Hillside. 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.
- The Fifth Annual Hillside Festival was our first ever three-day affair and the new format worked well, giving people the opportunity to attend every event if they wanted. Leaders and participating organizations included El Cerrito Historical Society, the Madera Elementary School PTA and Foundation, Madera’s Garden Teacher, Leah Ingram, Alina Constantinescu, the Dog Scouts of America, the Northern California Geological Society, Boy Scout Troop 104, author and publisher of RSB books Richard Schwartz, Janet Gawthrop of the California Native Plant Society, metal detecting guru Bill Barr, Susan Schwartz, of Friends of Five Creeks, and Ralph Boniello, and Nicole Becker from Ojas Yoga Center. We had many other volunteers who attended each event to keep things running smoothly. Thanks to all city employees who facilitated the event and the Environmental Quality Committee for funding it. Funds were raised through donations for Hillside improvement and maintenance. The Sixth annual festival will be May 3-5.
- Hikes. Trail Trekkers put on about 20 hikes this year, in addition to those at the Hillside Festival. These included the Kensington and El Cerrito Hills Ramble; several Albany Hill Hike and Off the Grid dining events; a Lost Trails & Fine Homes Hike; our popular Sunset Ramble in the Hillside Area and Motorcycle Hill; a Berkeley Rocks hike led by Janet Byron; a Native Plants hike led by Janet Gawthrop; a hike through San Francisco’s downtown private-yet-public open spaces; a dog-friendly Wildcat Canyon Ramble; an Architectural Walking Tour: The Hills; and a Holiday Lights hike. All our hikes are free.
- Social events. Trekkers threw two member appreciation parties this year, designed to thank our members, encourage new people to join, and to get to know each other better. Each was well attended and great fun. Mary Barkey’s pizza was the centerpiece. Mollie Hazen did much to organize and inspire these events. Trekkers never uses dues or other income to pay for food or drink; refreshments were donated by members.
- Trail work. Due to lack of volunteer leadership, Trekkers has fallen behind on trail work. We are however developing a list of shovel-ready projects and hope to begin some this year. During the year we surveyed some damaged trails in the Hillside Natural Area that need work soon. We also began what we believe will be productive partnerships with school groups.
- Students from Montessori are putting a dent in the French broom invasion. Students from the Montessori Family School in El Cerrito have been spending time each week removing this habitat-damaging plant from Motorcycle Hill in the Hillside Natural Area. Trail Trekkers and the city of El Cerrito are helping facilitate this effort. The students have also learned about native plant ecology by collecting seeds of native sycamores for planting soon.
- Annual meeting talk on mountain lions. Trekkers presented a useful and lively talk about mountains lions at our annual meting at the start of 2018. Dr. Courtney Coon, a wildlife biologist with the Bay Area Puma Project, presented a wonderful illustrated talk on the big cats that live among us. She showed dramatic and at times humorous videos from hidden wildlife cameras that caught the cats in action.
- New board members. Trekkers welcomed two new members to the board of directors in 2018, Barbara Lass and Wade Huntley. Barbara and Wade are a married couple and have been involved with Trekkers for some time now. Barbara and Wade have lived in El Cerrito since 1999. Barbara is an Anthropology instructor at City College of San Francisco, and Wade is a senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey . They enjoy walking and hiking in the East Bay hills.
- Departing board members. Trekkers saw two longtime board members depart the board, though we are happy to say both remain involved with our organization. Jenny Hammer was one of the founders of Trail Trekkers back in 2010, helping discover the forgotten urban paths in town, and spearheading efforts to successfully build several trails, including the Motorcycle Hill Trail. Tom Gehling, a naturalist and photographer, was one of our trail building leaders and hike leaders, did our website and newsletter, and much more.
- Park and Recreation Master Plan. Trekkers worked with city officials and consultants to help develop this important plan, ensuring that trails and open space will receive attention and funding in years to come.
- Fire safety. Attention turned to fire safety in wild land-developed land interfaces, including along the Hillside Natural Area and Wildcat Canyon. The topic of our 2019 annual meeting, Wildland Fire Safety, reflects this concern.
Trail Trekkers’ 2019 goals:
- Trail and habitat improvement. We plan to continue working with the students and teachers from Montessori School on habitat improvement in the Hillside. This work, by removing flammable French broom, also reduces fire danger. We hope to work with other schools too, including Prospect Sierra. A major goal is to recruit people who would be willing to organize and lead trail work parties. The Douglas Drive section of the Live Oak trail, for example, needs shoring up.
- Fire safety. Trekkers will work with city officials and neighbors on ways to improve maintenance of the Hillside Natural Area to reduce fire risk, and ways to use urban pathways as escape routes in case of disaster.
- Develop a plan for improving disused urban paths. We are working to list potential work projects on some of these trails that have fallen out of use. Improving these trails not only would add recreational amenities to our city, but would provide ways for pedestrians to get to mass transit and other locales. These paths would also be crucial escape routes in case of fires or other disasters.
- Preserving open space. We will continue the fight to preserve Fairview Open Space, working with the group ECHO on this.
- Trail map. We will publish a print version of the National Park Service-designed map of all of the city’s trails in 2019. We thank Stephen Bowes of the National Park Service for major assistance developing and designing the map. The map will be free to members of Trail Trekkers and be sold to others for a reasonable amount.
- Hillside Natural Area way-marking trail signs and Rotary Club interpretive trail signs. Both sets of signs, one throughout the Hillside for way-finding, and the other a relatively short segment of a nature tail, should be installed this year. The city had planned to get the way-finding signs installed in 2018, but faced delays.
- Trail signs for public stairways and walkways. We will seek funding to install the National Park Service-designed signs on the city’s trail network and public stairways that are outside of the Hillside Natural Area.
- The Sixth annual Hillside Festival will be back and better than ever. Dates are May 3-5 and a schedule will be available early in the spring.
- Improved outreach. We have several volunteers working to improve our publicity and our website. Susan Kuchinskas and Clare Sheridan will be working with Mollie Hazen, Trekkers communications director, and Pam Austin, our vice president, on these important tasks.