NorCal Preserves 10,000 Acres of Open Space

By September 5, 2012
Poppy flowers dot the landscape at Rockville Trails.

The scenic beauty of Rockville Trails is now protected from development thanks to the Solano Land Trust. (Photo by Nicole Byrd)

The Solano Land Trust of Fairfield, CA, has raised $13.5 million to complete the purchase of 1,500 acres of open space in the Bay Area which it will add to its existing 10,000 acre holding and turn into a public park, located about half-way between San Francisco and Sacramento.

The deal concludes 18 months of fundraising. The land trust purchased the first 330 acres of the site, known as Rockville Trails, in spring 2011. It secured the funds needed to purchase the remaining 1,170 acres of the property through private donations, public and private grants, and a one-year $250,000 loan from the Norcross Wildlife Foundation.

The first step for the land trust will be to develop a management plan (funding for the plan has already been approved by the California Coastal Conservancy) to identify important natural resources, inventory agricultural infrastructure, and begin the process of opening the park to the public. The organization aims to begin offering docent-led hikes by spring of 2013.

“The Rockville Trails site is a Solano County gem, and preserving it for public use has long been a priority for area residents,” Solano Land Trust board of directors president Darrin D. Berardi said, noting that the land provides important wildlife habitat and was enjoyed by the local equestrian community as a trail-riding venue. “The regional value of this property was made clear by the phenomenal community and regional support for the fundraising effort,” he added.

Securing Rockville Trails is Solano Land Trust’s most ambitious fundraising effort since it was founded in 1986. The land trust is now calling on Bay Area residents to help it raise the remaining $1.05 million needed to repay the $250,000 bridge loan and finish building a management endowment fund for the property.

Solano Land Trust launched its aggressive campaign to raise $15.5 million (which includes a $2 million endowment fund) after it purchased the first 330 acres of Rockville Trails for $3 million. The funds for the initial purchase came from local open space tax assessment funds from the City of Fairfield Community Facilities District 2 and Solano County Green Valley Open Space Management District.

Rockville Trails, Solano County

Solano County's Rockville Trails are now preserved as open space. (Photo by Aleta George)

The California Coastal Conservancy showed early support with a pledge of $3 million. In June 2012, the Conservancy increased its pledge by $450,000. “The Coastal Conservancy is excited to see Rockville Trails protected at last,” San Francisco Bay Area Conservancy program manager Amy Hutzel said. “The 1,500 acre property at the southern end of the Blue Ridge-Berryessa Natural Area has important wildlife corridors, wonderful oaks, and remarkable natural beauty. And its location across the road from an existing local park is ideal for future trail connections and public access.”

The State Wildlife Conservation Board in June approved a $2.877 million grant toward the purchase. The two state agency grants were funded through bonds approved by California voters to protect habitat, watershed, and recreational land.

Private foundations that contributed include the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Resources Legacy Fund, Syar Foundation, Brewster West Foundation, Rose Foundation, A.E. & Martha Michelbacher Fund, Margaret Beelard Community Foundation, and others. Attorney Bruce Ring provided two-and-a-half years of invaluable legal assistance while the land trust finalized the details of the sale.

Public support from individuals came into the office from the beginning. “We couldn’t have made our deadline without the generous support from individual donors in Solano County and beyond,” Solano Land Trust associate director Deanna Mott noted.

Nearly half-a-million dollars came from 422 donors, with 225 of them new to Solano Land Trust. Of those, 107 donors gave more than $500, with an average gift of $2,400. These donors will be acknowledged at the donor recognition area near the parking lot at the property’s entrance. The parking lot and staging area will be named after the Syar Foundation, which contributed $75,000.

The Green Valley Landowners Association (GVLA) played a vital role in preserving this land. Their involvement began three decades ago when they learned of plans for a housing development on the site, which they vigorously opposed. GVLA brought a lawsuit to stop the most recent proposed development on the land, and as a result, the developer approached Solano Land Trust to begin discussions that ultimately led to Solano Land Trust’s purchase of the land. GVLA was also active in the fundraising campaign.

“Fellow GVLA directors and I spent countless hours speaking with Green Valley residents, answering questions and encouraging support,” GVLA board member Amy Drake said. “Green Valley residents and their related foundations and companies contributed significantly, and access to this new public natural area is the community’s reward.”

In addition to paying off the $250,000 loan for acquiring the property, Solano Land Trust still needs to raise $800,000 for the endowment fund, which will help fund the work needed to open the property to the public and manage it in perpetuity. “The sooner Solano Land Trust secures the remaining endowment funds, the sooner we can get to work on establishing equestrian, hiking and biking trails,” Drake said.

Rockville Trails is located between Green Valley and Suisun Valley Roads near the I-80. With this acquisition, Solano Land Trust has now protected 22,491 acres of working farms and natural areas in Solano County.

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Panoramic view of Rockview Trails.

Solano County's Rockville Trails are now preserved as open space. (Photo by Jorge Fleige)

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