Home Main Category Announcements John Muir Land Trust Announces Campaign To Save Lafayette-Moraga’s Painted Rock

John Muir Land Trust Announces Campaign To Save Lafayette-Moraga’s Painted Rock


From the John Muir Land Trust:

The Goal is to Create a 505-Acre Community Open Space in Lamorinda

September 04, 2018 01:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time

MARTINEZ, Calif.—John Muir Land Trust (JMLT, jmlt.org) announces The Campaign To Save Painted Rock, an effort to acquire and permanently preserve the highly visible 84-acre hill located between Lafayette and Moraga, CA.

“The full impact of this campaign extends beyond these 84 acres, and its significance to the community reaches far beyond its most visible feature—the boulders painted with messages by students near the intersection of Moraga Road and Rheem Boulevard,” says Linus Eukel, Executive Director of John Muir Land Trust. If acquired, the Painted Rock property will anchor a large contiguous 505-acre public open space atop these hills that would be a stunning new recreational resource for the community and a protected haven for wildlife. JMLT must raise the remaining $1.0 million toward the total $2.0 million goal by May 31, 2019.

“Seen daily by thousands of residents, Painted Rock is one of the most visible natural landscapes in our area. This campaign matters greatly to our community. The hills around us provide a bucolic buffer for mind and spirit, and protecting these lands preserves the specialness of this place we call home,” says Teresa Onoda, Vice Mayor, Town of Moraga.

Map: John Muir Land Trust

Painted Rock is next in the Moraga Hills Campaign, a series of planned acquisitions by John Muir Land Trust to add significant new protected open space to the communities of Lafayette, Moraga, and Orinda. JMLT completed its first acquisition, 604-acre Carr Ranch, in November, 2016. An outpouring of donations from the community—including $4.5 million from East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD)—provided the $7 million needed to permanently protect Carr Ranch for clean water and wildlife, and to open it for public recreation.

A Big Vision

Painted Rock has been under pressure for commercial and housing development for decades; and two new residential developments are in progress on adjacent properties: Palos Colorados is adding 123 new houses and Rancho Laguna II is adding 27 new houses. Concerned citizens and the Town of Moraga arranged that instead of building a private golf course, the developers would preserve two parcels—of 310 acres and 111 acres—to be set aside as natural habitat and open space for public enjoyment. These parcels will be protected by conservation easements preventing any future development. The 84 acres of Painted Rock and its 935-foot summit dominate this landscape.

If protected, Painted Rock will anchor a new community resource totaling 505 beautiful acres—open to the public with miles of multi-use trails, ponds, streams, windswept grasslands, and unparalleled views of Mount Diablo and the rolling hills of central Contra Costa. All of this is within a few-minutes-walk of homes in the heart of Lamorinda. “Other than cattle ranchers who have grazed herds on these hills for decades, few people—even long-time residents who drive by daily on busy streets below—have experienced this beautiful landscape or enjoyed its remarkable vistas,” notes Eukel.

Saving Painted Rock—Why It Matters

If the campaign succeeds, outdoor enthusiasts of all ages will be able to explore unique elevated trails and viewpoints that complement the delightful low-lying trails throughout the region. The ridgeline along Painted Rock is among the highest points of elevation in the area—just waiting for hikers, cyclists, runners, dog walkers, bird watchers, and nature-lovers to experience for the first time its sweeping views of Mount Diablo, Las Trampas Regional Wilderness, and notable peaks and valleys in all directions. These invigorating new trails and views will be easily accessed from the many existing trails nearby.

Keeping natural areas intact is essential, as fragmented habitat is one of the greatest threats to wildlife. The 84 acres of Painted Rock include annual and perennial grasslands, coastal scrub, and seep and spring wetlands. Hawks soar overhead, and the area offers suitable habitat for the threatened Alameda whipsnake. Productive springs and stock ponds have the potential to harbor special-status species such as the threatened California red-legged frog. Today these springs support wetland-associated vegetation such as arroyo willow trees and a variety of hydrophytic grasses and herbs.

A tradition dating back decades makes the property as iconic as any in a small city or town. Local students whitewash the boulders that face the streets below, painting memorable messages in the dead of night. While not exactly encouraging it, residents have embraced this tradition as a local rite of passage. Few have looked up at a freshly painted homecoming slogan without a smile and a fond memory of times past.

Imminent Threat

There is enormous development pressure on precious natural lands due to the Bay Area’s sizzling economy and surging housing market. Painted Rock was once offered for sale as a residential development site for $15 million. Under existing regulations, Moraga has the potential for up to 1,200 additional residences—an increase of 21%. These pressures will intensify in the years ahead.

Looking Ahead

“The next few decades are critical for shaping the Bay Area landscape. Decisions we make today have permanent and lasting consequences for the world that our children and grandchildren will inherit,” says Eukel. Generous JMLT supporters have made possible a string of successes from stunning Fernandez Ranch in the north to Carr Ranch, the first in a series of acquisitions in Lamorinda. Adds Eukel, “This landowner is committed to conservation and is generously offering the Painted Rock property to John Muir Land Trust. This is an extraordinary one-time opportunity. The community came together to protect Carr Ranch, and we can do it again.”

About The Moraga Hills Campaign

The Moraga Hills Campaign is the latest phase of John Muir Land Trust’s decades-long effort to protect the most threatened and important properties in the East Bay Hills—a landscape that defines our region’s rich natural heritage. The campaign seeks to protect a half-dozen special places totaling hundreds of acres in Lamorinda that will provide critical wildlife corridors, protect native species, preserve clean drinking water, and offer residents spectacular opportunities to experience wide-open natural spaces.

About John Muir Land Trust

John Muir Land Trust (JMLT) protects and cares for open space, ranches, farms, parkland and shoreline in Contra Costa and Alameda Counties. In a generation, John Muir Land Trust has become one of the leading forces for conservation in Northern California. With 3,100 acres protected, many beautiful places in the East Bay are permanently preserved for recreation, wildlife habitat and spectacular scenic views. JMLT believes that the vitality of our open spaces is essential to the health of our earth, air, water, native plants and animals — and all of us.


  1. Can JMLT push for multi use trail development? We lack proper single track for Mountain Bikes in the east bay. All this big open space EBMUD etc land that is essentially closed to the public due to the size of these land tracts and “zero” proper trail development. Buldozer fire breaks are not planned trails!!

    I contributed to JMLT thinking it was like The Golden Gate conservancy, but JMLT is not even remotely close. They didn’t even put up proper signage for the Carr Ranch visitors as such land owners in that area get trespassing people driving up private driveways looking for Carr Ranch trail access. Which consists of East Bay Mud service roads which are essentially poorly cut fire breaks. I like JMLT’s plan, but so far they really need to step up their game with what they do with these land plots after they aquire them. JMLT seems to loose local momentum once their funding goals for purchase are met.

    • Interesting point and post, Calguy… thanks. Perhaps someone from JMLT would like to respond? More than welcome here…

  2. Today we have highly successful examples of multi agency held lands and local organizations teaming up to create trail new systems that become destinations sought out by cyclists, hikers and the dwindling population of trail horse owners.

    John Muir was prolific in his push for trail development in our region most of our proper trails in the Bay Area today are trails he was directly involved in getting created. They are trails written about and listed in just about every travel book about our region.

    We only have a few recent trails that have had the same level of creative energy put into them. Marin has several multi organization planned, maintained and designed trails that capture the beauty of the terrain and offer multi use. The town of Fairfax has an entire weekend economy built around those trails.

    The highly successful and very recent Paradise Royal trail on the Lost Coast has become a international destination in just a matter of a few yrs.
    The East BAY hills potential for a environmentally friendly, Healthyfamily activity that can cover long trails ie large tracts of land in modern day time allowances is huge. More users more days of the week who admire the open space and respect it the fewer challenges these land holders have with illegal uses and abuses in areas rarely visited.

    The Bay Area population has grown 100x since John Muir pushed his friends and supporters to create great trails. Sadly todays Bay Area major land holders of open space have not continued with the John Muir montra.

    The Golden Gate Conservatory has grown with every success with big and small implementation of access improvements. JMLT is a newbie to this, but they carry the weight of using John Muir’s name. Things as simple as proper signage on aquired land and informed updates on proper trail planning and use would go a long, long way in gaining/growing local support for further land acquisitions.

  3. I am all for acquiring more land for public use (I contributed to the Carr Ranch purchase), but if we can enhance/replace The Painted Rock with the Rheem Theater marquis, I think we have a win/win and can finally move on from another failed Moraga retail space, namely the theater. Let the theater evolve! Let there be “affordable” housing, or even better, tear it down and plant Golden Poppies. If I understand it correctly, OSH was operating under a sub-market lease rate in Moraga, and it failed. Please remind me of the definition of insanity…and how a marketplace works…and who wins and who loses.

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