PLEASANTON -- Although the East Bay Regional Park District already spans more than 113,000 acres with 1,200 miles of trails in 65 parks, there is always a need for more.
To meet these needs, the park district has adopted a new plan to add some land reserves -- property it owns that it had not been ready to make active park land -- into the district.
At Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park the land-use plan calls for 2,360 acres to be added to the 4,172 acres now open to the public. For the first phase of the plan, a work project has been scheduled for April 19 through April 21. On that weekend the district will team up with Volunteers for Outdoor California to bring trails in one parcel up to district standards in order to open this land to the public, and they're looking for volunteers to help get the job done. Pleasanton Ridge now consists of open land on an oak-covered ridge overlooking Pleasanton and Livermore Valley, with views north to Mount Diablo and south to Sunol and Mission Peak.
"The park has a variety of trees, lots of birdlife, open grassland, secluded canyons and spring wildflowers," said Steve Quick, a park supervisor. "It's a long, skinny park that's popular with mountain bikers, hikers and equestrians."
The goal at Pleasanton Ridge is to integrate land bank parcels into those already open to the public. Though these acres have not formally been open they've gotten informal use and numerous "bootleg" trails have been created, so the project's goal is to upgrade these trails without changing the ambience of the area.
"The project will rehabilitate and improve several trails at Pleasanton Ridge that have been newly designated as multiuse trails," said Jim Townsend, manager of trail development for the park district. "The main goal is to make the trails safer and more sustainable."
The work at Pleasanton Ridge is Volunteers for Outdoor California's first project of the year. Working with the park district, they have come up with a detailed list of improvements to be made. Most of the work will be in widening informal single-track trails that connect Ridgeline Trail with North Ridge Trail, cleaning up old ranch roads and installing trail signposts.
The volunteer group is looking for 100 workers and, as with all of its projects, the objective is to work hard and then enjoy the camping and social aspect of the project.
"We need help at the campsite; we feed everyone, so there's a lot of work to be done. For people who want to be active, we get them out on the trail with crew leaders who lead small groups," said Jeff Chilcott, the group's project leader.
"All our projects are overnight camping, and that's quite a party. We sit around the campsite and try to have some kind of entertainment."
Many of the group's crew leaders work with various trail organizations so they are experienced with trail work and with working with volunteers, sharing their knowledge about what's being done, the thinking behind the trail work and how it will benefit park users.
"We enjoy working with (the group) because they are very well organized, they're dependable and they can reliably turn out an enthusiastic labor force to help improve our open spaces," Townsend said.
Townsend and Quick say volunteering has a two-way benefit. It's good for the park district, providing a much-needed labor force.
"Like most government agencies we're not as financially flush as we'd like to be, so we can use all the help we can get," Townsend said.
Benefits to participants are equally important, creating a sense of ownership of open spaces and the responsibility of stewardship of those spaces.
"Volunteering gives you a feeling of being part of helping with the outdoors," Quick said. "It gives you a feeling that you are part of something larger."
Once the project is done, trails established and trail signs installed, the parcel will be added to the park map and that section will open to the public, completing the first step in the land-use plan.
"This park has more acres that are not open than those that are open. There are about 8,800 acres and 3,600 of those are closed," Quick said. "This parcel is well needed."
Work and fun will take place from 5 p.m. April 19 to 2 p.m. April 21. Volunteers can sign up for any part of the weekend. For details, visit http://bit.ly/14cWAOn or call 925-931-1335. The park is at 9895 Foothill Road in Pleasanton.