Trekker News June 2022

Fairview Open Space contains meadows, steep hillside, oak forests and two creeks. Photo by Laura Len

Toll Brothers drops plans to build luxury homes on Fairview Open Space. Just days before the Hillside Festival last month, we learned that Tolls Brothers, one of the nation’s largest home building firms, has decided it would not try to build high-end homes – or any homes – on the 15-acre Fairview Open Space.

Trail Trekkers regards that as very good news. This is a marvelous property with immense value as wildlife habitat. Paving much of it over for development would have destroyed much of this value and harmed local efforts to combat climate change as well.

But we can’t rest easy. Nick Kosla, who was handling the project for Toll Brothers and who has hiked the site with us, believes another developer may step in. As he wrote to us in announcing Toll Brother's decision:

“I just wanted to let you know that Toll Brothers will not be moving forward with this project at this time, but I anticipate another group will take the next steps to move the project forward.”

Still, the fact that Toll Brothers, with its decades of expertise, has decided that it would not pencil out to for its team to build homes on this steep and rugged site, one with two creeks running through it, and heavily forested with native oaks, suggests the challenges that other developers would face.

Trekkers would like to work with like-minded organizations, including the neighbors’ group ECHO, the Sierra Club and others, to see what can be done to raise funds or get grant money that would help to purchase this site for addition to the city’s Hillside Natural Area, which it adjoins.

Eight years ago Trekkers, working with other groups in town, and with the City of El Cerrito and Trust for Public Land, succeeded in acquiring Madera Open Space, which had also faced potential development.

Interested? Let us know. -- Dave Weinstein

Attend our Public Art Walk. Longtime Trekker Walter Schweikert will lead an easy walk to view public art in El Cerrito. The walk will include prize winning utility boxes, the street mobiles and murals, with some glimpses of nature along the way. 

Saturday, June 18 at 10 a.m. to noon. Meet on the Ohlone Greenway at Conlon Avenue and Key Boulevard, near Baxter Creek Park.

Bird Walk at Hillside Natural Area. If you want to learn the birds of Hillside Natural Area, this walk is for you! New to birding? Looking to strengthen your bird-watching skills? Just want to experience the joyful spring calls of the warblers and finches? Join us! This is a kid-friendly event, all ages welcome. Leader is avid birder Yari Greaney.

We will go on a short, slow walk and spot the many different species of birds that live in Hillside Natural Area. If you have binoculars, please bring them, but if you don’t, no worries! We have a spare you can use. Wear sunscreen and bring water, and come prepared to have a fantastically fun time!

Saturday, June 25th, 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m. Meet at the Schmidt Lane entrance to Hillside Natural Area, near the Recycling Center. Please, no dogs on our bird hike.

Young people enjoy views from the Hillside during the recent festival. Photo courtesy El Cerrito Trail Trekkers

Hillside Fest had great walks, talks, attendance and weather. Close to 400 people attended our festival this May 14-15, including two members of our city council, Paul Fadelli and Tessa Rudnick, and our BART board member Rebecca Saltzman.

Many families attended, and were entertained as they learned about birds, insects, geology and more.

Hope to see you at next year’s event. Check out some photos from this year’s festival.

Cathy Bleier led a wonderful hike focusing on the birds that inhabit the Hillside Natural Area. Photo by Dave Weinstein

Hillside Natural Area oaks are for the birds! I had lots of fun leading my first bird walk at the El Cerrito Hillside Festival and I hope others did, too. 

Many birds are settling in for serious nesting now, so some species were heard but never seen (for example, the raspy mews and rattles of the spotted towhee). Fortunately hearing them ‘counts,’ so we logged them in with our 27 species for the day. 

Our native coast live oaks are full of yummy insects, an essential protein source for chicks, so residents and spring migrants breed in our hillside. The usual suspects were there, chestnut-backed chickadees, jays, Bewick’s wrens and the oak titmouse, plus we had a great view of a recently arrived and gorgeous spring migrant, the black-headed grosbeak, on his perch atop an oak.   

We watched a pair of Vaux’s swifts in a “courtship fall,” where they grab each other and descend in a downward spiral.  While this species mostly breeds north of the Bay and up into Canada, our sighting suggests these birds may indeed be nesting close by.

On our walk we also experimented with Merlin, a phone app that identifies birds by sound.  We immediately picked up Canada Goose calls … made by our precocious and skilled junior birders, to everyone’s delight.  I expect to see those girls in Golden Gate Audubon’s Master Birder class in a few years!   You can see the list of birds for this outing at …..

-- Cathy Bleier

Visit our booth at the July 4 Celebration. Like almost everyone in town, Trail Trekkers welcomes the return of the city's biggest annual event, the July 4 World One Festival. The music is always great, there are events for kids, and both food and art.

The Trail Trekkers booth will be on the main field. Please stop by and say hello, enjoy our displays, grab an event flyer or two, and get to know us. The festival runs 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Cerrito Vista Park.

The event this year is being funded by members of the community, due to financial issues the city has been facing. Council member Paul Fadelli deserves thanks for working hard to help make this happen.

Take part in the next Baxter Creek Work Party on Sunday, July 10, 10 a.m. to noon. Please join city staff and other volunteers at Baxter Creek Gateway Park in this jewel on the Ohlone Greenway. The activities will include litter removal, invasive plant removal and native plant care. 

All ages are welcome (under 18 with guardian). Please wear long sleeves, long pants, and closed-toe shoes. Bring water. The city will provide tools, bags, gloves, and sanitizer. There are no bathrooms at the park. We will meet at 10 a.m. at Conlon Avenue and the Ohlone Greenway. RSVP by email or phone:  or 510-215-4350

Baxter Creek Gateway Park Volunteer Days take place on the first Sunday of each month, except during major holiday weekends, in which case we will meet the following Sunday. 

Subsequent dates for 2022 are: August 7, September 11 (2nd Sunday due to Labor Day holiday), October 2, November 6, December 4

Buy our El Cerrito Trail Map. The second edition of this map is available at three stores, Jenny K , Builders Booksource on Fourth Street in Berkeley, and Pegasus books on Solano Avenue.

Or you can buy a map from us or get one “free” by joining Trail Trekkers. Send $6 for a map to our treasurer, Pam Austin, 834 Kearny St., EC, 94530

Have you renewed your membership? It only costs $20 annually to belong to Trekkers, and $500 buys a life membership. Please renew now or join by going to our website and downloading the membership form.

And consider an additional donation as well. Funds go for trail work, to install trail signs, for a fund to purchase additional open space, as well as incidental expenses. Donations are tax deductible as allowed by law.

Trekkers thanks new and renewing members and donors:

Tim Aaronson
Connie Baechler
Aidan Bauer
Andres Bergero
Chris Bunting
Jerry Clopp
Paul Hughes
Emily Kam
Joan Kuenz
Jo Lee
Dolores Levister
James McCarty
Erin McCluskey and Jason Forester
Ray Patterson Steven Price and Janet Byron
Sweepeck Quek
Jim and Andia Rasmussen
Wendy Salem 
Karen Sharp


El Cerrito Trail Trekkers board of directors:

Dave Weinstein, president,
Wade Huntley, vice president
Barbara Lass, secretary
Pam Austin, treasurer,
Clare Sheridan, member at large,
Melissa Hobbs, member at large,


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