BAY POINT -- Father Juan Crespi and Capt. Pedro Fages weren't the first Europeans who explored the San Francisco Bay Area. But they were the first Europeans to set foot in Contra Costa County when they embarked on a trip in 1772 that led the King of Spain to call for further exploration of the Bay Area.

And that accomplishment should be recognized with a proper monument to the Fages-Crespi exploration party and the members of the Bay Miwok Indian tribe they encountered, according to the Bay Point Historical Society. To that end, the group is raising funds and garnering support to build a new monument, which would replace a crumbling, unidentified four-foot tall one on a Bay Point hillside above Evora Road and Mota Drive from where Fages and Crespi first glimpsed the Delta and its surrounding environs on March 30, 1772.

"The view for the first time opened up the vastness of the Delta," to the explorers, said historian Dean McLeod, a board member of the historical society. "No single moment defines history, but the actions of the Spanish government consequent to the Fages-Crespi exploration in 1772 clearly indicate that the exploration that took them through Contra Costa County and terminated on a hill overlooking Bay Point clearly accelerated the settlement of San Francisco."

The Fages-Crespi party made stops in what is now Crockett, Diablo Valley, Bay Point, Antioch and Pittsburg before heading back to Monterey. Observations of the trip were forwarded to Father Junipero Serra and Spain's King Carlos II. The king then ordered more exploration of the Bay Area, including the 1776 trip led by the better-known Juan Bautista de Anza that led to the settlement of San Francisco.

"This was the trigger," said McLeod, who envisions a monument made up of three statues that would be visible from Highway 4 to represent Crespi, Fages and the Bay Miwok tribe.

The group has garnered support from the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors, the Ambrose Recreation and Park District, the Contra Costa Historical Society, and Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public education, among others.

Spain is also expected to bestow its approval, said Jorge Montealegre, Consul General of Spain in San Francisco.

"People should get to know the history. They were the first Europeans that arrived in Contra Costa County. It's very important," he said.

Providing a proper monument would also tie in with events taking place this year to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the birthday of Serra, who founded the California missions.

"This would link with that factor," Montealegre said.

The Crespi-Fages exploration was among several made of California long after Spanish and European explorers first sailed along the coast more than 200 years earlier.

"For a long time Monterey was as far north as Spain went," said Louise Pubols, senior curator of history at the Oakland Museum of California. "In the early 1770s Spain sent a number of explorers to the Bay Area. They had heard there was potential, a pretty nice estuary and wanted to figure out what was up. You can acknowledge they were one of the first explorers of San Francisco Bay. They are the first (to explore Contra Costa County)."

The impetus for a proper monument can be traced in part to the publication in 2011 of "With Anza to California, 1775-1776: Diary of Pedro Font," McLeod said. The book provided a translation of the diary that Font kept of his observations while on the Anza exploration, along with new details about the Crespi-Fages exploration.

The historical society envisions the new monument being placed on the same hill as the unidentified monument. Its origins are uncertain, but McLeod has an idea about the crumbling monument that has some graffiti and bears no plaque.

"My belief is that it may have been a monument that was built in mitigation for the Sea Breeze subdivision. All that is there is a pile of rocks," he said.

To view a video about the history of the Fages-Crespi exploration check out this video at http://bit.ly/10NmCFI

Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.

A video : To view a video about the history of the Fages-Crespi exploration check out this video at http://bit.ly/10nmcfi