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.
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.
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.
“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.