The notion of preserving open space in the hills above Oakland and Berkeley dates back to early in the 20th century.

Harold French, who wrote a newspaper article in the San Francisco Call in 1909 (read it online at bit.ly/1BzKldz) guiding prospective hikers to sights in the largely undeveloped hills, went on to found the Contra Costa Hills Club (www.contracostahills.org, a conservation and hiking group now based in El Cerrito) in 1920.

Hill was also a friend and frequent correspondent with John Muir, and wrote a letter to the pioneering environmentalist expressing the desire to establish a system of parks in what he called "the Contra Costa hills."

When much of the watershed land in the hills became available for development in the late 1920s, people with foresight, including French, mounted a campaign to preserve the open areas.

The creation of what is now the East Bay Regional Park District was approved by voters in 1934, when the region and the nation were deep in the throes of the Great Depression.

A free program, "Celebrating 80 Years of the East Bay Regional Park District and its connection with the Civilian Conservation Corps and WPA" will be hosted by the El Cerrito Historical Society at 7 p.m. Aug. 27 at the El Cerrito Community Center, 7007 Moeser Lane.

"By 1936, the new district had purchased enough land to create its first three regional parks -- and federal New Deal programs supplied much of the labor and capital to build them," notes the society.


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The watershed property had been turned into a watershed moment for the Bay Area, which wisely saw fit to establish the first regional park agency in the United States. And because it was during the depression, New Deal agencies such as the Works Project Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps were major factors in doing the work that established those first parks. (The site of the Environmental Education Center and Little Farm at Tilden Regional Park was originally the location of the camp for CCC workers creating walls and trails in the park.)

The speaker for the free event will be David Zuckermann, supervising naturalist with the East Bay Regional Park District.

The talk is open to the public and light refreshments will be served.

For more details contact Dave Weinstein at 510-524-1737 or davidsweinstein@yahoo.com.

ANNIVERSARY GALA: The East Bay Regional Park District itself, meanwhile, is marking its 80th anniversary with a gala evening of dining and dancing from 5 to 10:30 p.m. Sept. 13 at the historic Claremont Hotel.

The evening will include "delectable food, charming company, and fascinating history," along with dancing to live music, a live auction and awards presentation with longtime television reporter Wendy Tokuda as mistress of ceremonies.

Attire for the evening is "1934 elegance."

For tickets or details visit bit.ly/1w6Okhn or contact Nakia White at nwhite@ebparks.org or 510-544-2200.

DOWN HOME MOVIE: The documentary "This Ain't No Mouse Music!" tells the history of El Cerrito/Richmond-based roots music label Arhoolie Records and its founder Chris Strachwitz.

The 92-minute film directed by Chris Simon and Maureen Gosling, who both have long associations with Strachwitz and Arhoolie, is touring nationwide and comes to the Bay Area for a screening starting Sept. 19 to 25 at the Rialto Cinemas, Elmwood, 2966 College Ave. in Berkeley.

Details on the film are at www.argotpictures.com/nomousemusic.html. Details on the showing are at www.rialtocinemas.com.

WEST COUNTY NOTES: San Pablo is beginning construction on its Wildcat Creek Trial project from 23rd Street to Davis Park, assigning the construction contract to Maggiora & Ghilotti at the July 21 council meeting. Land and easement acquisitions for the project have already been carried out.

Sections of the trail "have already been completed along the lower reaches of the creek, and the (city) has completed sections from Rumrill Boulevard to the western end of Davis Park," according to a news release. "This section of trail will provide an 800-foot greenway, connecting 23rd Street commercial area to Davis Park, and in the future to the Bay Trail."

The new segment is intended to be a connector to the Bay and Ridge trails.

"The proposed trail would be located at the top of the north bank of Wildcat Creek," according to the announcement. "Creek bank restoration work (on the north 'right' bank only), including removal of concrete rubble and non-native ivy and replanting with appropriate riparian vegetation, will be included with the trail construction."

  • Catholic Charities of the East Bay this week opened a new West County Service Center that will be located at 217 Harbour Way in Richmond.

  • The Boys and Girls Club of El Sobrante has resumed its low-cost after school care program with the start of the new educational year and can use donations of basic school supplies such as paper, pens, rulers, markers and the like. Anyone who wants to help can drop off donations at the club, 4660 Appian Way in El Sobrante, or call 510) 223-5253 for more details.

    Contact Chris Treadway at 510-262-2784 or ctreadway@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/christreadway. Stay up-to-date on West Contra Costa news at IBABuzz.com/westcounty.