Trekker News - March 2022


Plant walking: A Healing Ritual. Alan Siegel, a volunteer with Tilden Botanic Garden, will teach us to Identify edible and medicinal plants in the El Cerrito Natural Area. We will learn interesting stories about how native plants have been used over the centuries and currently for food, medicine, and crafts by Indigenous peoples. Sunday, April 3, 10 a.m. to noon, Schmidt Lane trailhead of the Hillside Natural Area, 7501 Schmidt Lane.

Plants of Canyon Trail Park, a walk. Did you know Canyon Trail Park has more than 40 kinds of trees and shrubs, more than half native to California? Join this (very) short walk to learn about this diversity, and appreciate the restored pond on Baxter Creek and a rock with Native American petroglyphs. The main path is paved, for those who prefer, with excursions around the pond and up the hillside as desired. Walk leader: David Ackerly, Dean, Rausser College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley. 1 – 3 p.m. Saturday, April 9. Meet at the Conlon Ave. entrance, at the lower end of Canyon Trail Park.

Fairview Open Space has two creeks, one of which speeds downhill through a series of mini-waterfalls. Photos by Dave Weinstein

Luxury homes are again considered for Fairview Open Space. One of the nation’s top homebuilders is eyeing Fairview Open Space, 15 acres of open space to the north of and adjacent to the Hillside Natural Area.

This is a gorgeous area, with two creeks, one of which cascades steeply downhill in a series of cataracts. There are rock outcroppings, forested areas, and grassland. Over the years many people have walked there. Some Trekker newcomers recently removed invasive French broom from the property, believing, as do many, it is part of the Hillside Natural Area.

Fairview Open Space is roughly bordered by the Motorcycle Hill area of the Hillside Natural Area to the south, by a row of homes along Arlington Boulevard on the north and east, and by Tamalpais Avenue on the west.

I met with Nick Kosla, the project leader for Toll Brothers on this property, to say Trekkers opposes any development on the site, which is the last large piece of undeveloped open space in the city. Nick responded that it is also a large piece of beautiful land that is zoned for residences.

Nick said no decision has been made on whether to build here or not. The company is trying to figure out how many homes it can build on the property to determine if it makes sense to proceed. 

The company may build single-family or clustered homes, or even townhouses, he said. He said Toll Brothers does not build affordable housing, but would adhere to city policies requiring  a percentage set aside for affordable homes.

Toll Brothers does not own the site, but is working with the owners. 

It has been about five years since the owner of the property, a local family, last came to the city with a development proposal. Several of its proposals were turned away at the staff level for more information. The proposals called for almost 40 homes and would have impinged on creeks and slopes, violating various city, state, and regional regulations, laws and policies.

If you would like to learn more about the significant constraints on development on this steep site, check out our website, the section about Open Space and Fairview. We will be updating it now or within a few days.

Trekkers will work to ensure that this area remains open space. As the city increases housing in its flatlands it is all the more important that our last open spaces be preserved.

Fairview Open Space has several acres of relatively flat land near an entry where Fairview Drive and Tamalpais Avenue meet. If the property is added to the Hillside N.A. it would be the only part of the steep Hillside that people of limited mobility could visit.

Trekkers understands that housing is a priority – but so is open space, and there are places in El Cerrito better suited for housing. 

We understand we are not the only party to play a role in this drama. If approvals are forthcoming for housing on Fairview, we will work diligently to limit the number of units and any impact on habitat. We will work to ensure that any undeveloped land be deeded to the city for addition to the Hillside N.A.

Nick, who is also a sport fisherman and a member of the Orinda City Council, has suggested that a full environmental impact report might not be required for a housing project on the site. 

Trekkers strongly disagrees, noting the habitat, air quality, water quality, open space recreation, archeological and historical resources to be found on Fairview Open Space.

Trekkers is looking forward to working with Nick and members of the community as we determine the fate of these 15 acres.
-- Dave Weinstein, Trekkers president

Together We Can Defeat the Menace of French Broom Few plants in the Hillside Natural Area are as noxious, quick spreading, or as colorful as French Broom, whose profusion of bright yellow blooms stokes fear in the hearts of environmentalists who work hard to preserve native habitat.

Over decades, forests of French broom have engulfed areas of the El Cerrito hills, choking off the growth of native plants, including live oaks and wildflowers, and harming habitat for birds, insects and other fauna.

Yet much has been done to beat back this menace. Just a few years ago, a ride up Moeser Lane showed French broom blocking views of neighboring homes. No more.

Learn more by watching this film with Howdy Goudey, which was shown at the 2021 Hillside Festival.

Trekkers is partnering with the city Environmental Quality Committee’s Green Teams on a series of broom pulls, all on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon (or beyond; sometimes it is hard to stop!) The dates are March 26, April 23 (an Earth Day activity), and – tentatively, if the ground remains soft, May 21. We supply tools and tarps. Removing Broom is relatively easy and deeply satisfying. Attend to work alongside some of the most interesting people you will ever meet. Meet at the north end of Regency Court.

Parents and children and other haiku award winners and poetry fans enjoyed last year’s haiku contest hike.

Haiku Contest, Part of the the Hillside Festival. As part of the festival we will hold a haiku hike and award winners in the haiku contest for poems inspired by the Hillside.

Focus your poems on your experiences in the Hillside Natural Area. Celebrate the annual El Cerrito Trail Trekkers Hillside Festival.

Classical Japanese Haiku includes: the season; the place, the transitory nature of life, the suffering, the surprise moment.  17 syllables in 5-7-5 format is not strictly followed Inspiration should come from the Hillside. El Cerrito residency not required. Age categories: 18 and over;13-17; 12 and under. First prize in each age category: $50. Second and third prize in each age category: $30. Judges are Evelyn Mitchell, Maw Shein Win and Melissa Hobbs

Winners receive gift certificates to El Cerrito Natural Grocery and/or Jenny K Gifts. Include your name, email, phone number, and age if 12 or under, or 13- 17. Children 12 and under, please ask your parent or guardian about entering the contest beforehand. Submit up to three poems to email: between 3-1-22 and 4-15-22.

Entries and poets’ names posted weekly. Children listed by first name & first letter of last name. Please go to website for more details.

Winners announced April 25, 2022. Winners featured on the website and in the El Cerrito Trekker Newsletter. Awards will be given out and poets read their haiku on the haiku hike noon on Sunday, May 15, 2022.

Birding newcomers and experienced birders both young and old enjoyed one of our birding hikes during the Hillside Festival.

Mark your calendars for the Hillside Festival, Saturday and Sunday, May 14-15. Free. This event returns to the real Hillside this year after a virtual festival in 2020. We have a full range of activities, with Eddie Dunbar of the Insect Sciences Museum kicking the fest off with an ever-popular hike for all ages.

We will have geology and history hikes, a birding morning hike and native plants hikes. There will be a history of El Cerrito walk and an outdoors talk on Native Americans by author Richard Schwartz.

Check our website for more details and pick up a hard copy map and schedule, which will soon be distributed at community centers, libraries and shops throughout El Cerrito and nearby towns.

Take part in the next Baxter Creek Work Party on Sunday, April 3 10 a.m. to noon. Please joincity 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: May 1, June 5, July 10 (2nd Sunday due to Fourth of July holiday), August 7, September 11 (2nd Sunday due to Labor Day holiday), October 2, November 6, December 4

Writer Toney Edwards wants to hear from Richmond trail users. “Live in and hike on a trail in Richmond? I'm Tony Edwards, a writer from Richmond. I'm writing a series of articles on how our local Richmond trails were used by the community as a place to get outside and safely explore during the worst of the pandemic. If you walk/hike/ride/run on a Richmond trail (Wildcat, Alvarado, Point Pinole, Miller Knox, and non-East Bay Regional Park District trails) and you live in Richmond, I'd love to share your story. Email me at to learn more. Thanks to Trail Trekkers for their help publicizing!”

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:

Tina Amidon
Judith Austin Brown
Darlene Charvet
Bert Collins
Steven Price and Janet Byron
Mark Wieder and Shauna Haines

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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