1,185 Acres of Pristine Habitat Between Hercules and Martinez Now Includes Former Franklin Canyon Property
Martinez, CA — On June 3, 2017 John Muir Land Trust is holding a property dedication and public opening of its newly expanded, 1,185-acre Fernandez Ranch off Highway 4 near Hercules, CA. The 483-acre property formerly known as Franklin Canyon is merging into adjacent Fernandez Ranch and receiving visitors for the first time. This pristine natural landscape is an extraordinary public resource within minutes of some of the most densely populated areas of the East Bay.
Visitors to Fernandez Ranch enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the Bay from elevated ridgetops as they walk through diverse ecosystems of oak-studded slopes, pockets of bay forest, open meadows, and freshwater wetlands. Riparian scrub along its creeks includes arroyo willow, thickets of California blackberry and short-spiked hedge nettle. “It’s a natural paradise for lovers of the outdoors,” said Linus Eukel, executive director of John Muir Land Trust.
“A unique aspect of Fernandez Ranch is the transition from coastal to interior habitats, and the impressive diversity of oaks and oak woodland types these habitats support,” reports Jake Schweitzer, Senior Ecologist at Vollmar Natural Lands Consulting. “These include coast live oak, black oak, Oregon oak, valley oak and blue oak habitats. They in turn support an equally diverse array of wildlife species.”
This remarkably intact natural habitat is home to the endangered Alameda whipsnake, Cooper’s hawk, northern harrier, California red-legged frog and western pond turtle. Younger visitors will be delighted by bugs, birds, beetles, newts and animal tracks. The keenly observant will spot nests of San Francisco dusky-footed woodrats—piles of twigs and branches often several feet tall. At dawn and dusk, deer emerge from the woods and coyotes howl.
June 3rd is National Trails Day, an annual celebration of muscle-powered trail activities that brings together trail users of all ages, hiking enthusiasts, local clubs and organizations with the hope of creating more trail advocates and stewards across the country. The expanded Fernandez Ranch offers miles of new multi-use trails for hiking, mountain biking, equestrian activities, and off-leash dog walking. These trails connect to the extensive trail system of adjacent East Bay Municipal Utility District lands, the 550-mile Bay Area Ridge Trail, and the 500-mile San Francisco Bay Trail. The property offers 1.5 miles of ADA-accessible paths, three picnic areas, easy parking, and a staging area for horse trailers.
“Opening this beloved landscape marks a hugely satisfying conclusion to years of hard work and the contributions of thousands of JMLT supporters, foundations and public agencies who made this possible,” said Eukel. “It is a gift to future generations shared by members of the surrounding communities, and celebrated by everyone who lives in and loves the East Bay.”
John Muir Land Trust acquired an initial 702 acres from the Fernandez family in 2005, then raised $3.5 million for a restoration project that began in 2008 to restore Rodeo Creek’s eroding banks and to complete the staging areas and trail system. The second acquisition, the 483-acre Franklin Canyon property was the direct result of community advocacy. The City of Hercules had approved multiple applications for residential and commercial development over the years; but citizens, voters, labor organizations, and local environmentalists formed a movement to preserve the land instead. These passionate supporters helped JMLT to raise the $2.5 million necessary to purchase the land to be merged with existing Fernandez Ranch and preserved in perpetuity.
Fernandez Ranch is named for pioneers Bernardo and Carlotta Fernandez, who were early entrepreneurs in Contra Costa County. In 1853 as a young seafarer, Bernardo Fernandez came to the East Bay where he established a successful freighting business between Contra Costa and San Francisco, and eventually grew a small land holding to over 20,000 acres of Contra Costa’s fertile soil. Today’s Windmill Trail follows the route of the old ranch road, passing by a historic windmill and the remnants of a mid-century dairy farm. Although the dairy ceased operating in 1960, cattle still graze the surrounding hills. The Fernandez family remained diligent stewards of the ranch for many generations before offering the property to JMLT.
Phillips 66 provided a generous grant to prepare the property for public opening and for ongoing stewardship. As a member of JMLT’s Corporate Council, Phillips 66 sponsors the Pure Muir Gala and annual Stargazing event, and teams of employee volunteers have helped build trails at Franklin Canyon and Sky Ranch.
The public is cordially invited to come view the property and celebrate this grand opening.
Opening of Newly Expanded Fernandez Ranch
Saturday, June 3, 2017
10am – 2pm
10:30am Dedication Program
11:30am Start of Long Hike
Docent-led tours and hikes
Free and fun for all
1081 Christie Road, Martinez, CA
Directions: Heading east on Highway 4 take the first exit after Franklin Canyon Golf Course onto Christie Road. Use caution as Christie Road is a minor exit. Fernandez Ranch is .7 miles down Christie Road on your right. Plenty of parking.
More information at jmlt.org