The East Bay Regional Park District board of directors voted 7-0 last week to purchase two parcels totaling 390 acres to expand Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch and Vasco Hills Regional Preserve near Byron.
The Black Diamond property is a 191-acre parcel that will complete the northern gateway and entrance to the park, and bring the park’s total acreage to 8,482. The Park District is purchasing the property, a former ranch once owned by the Arata and then Moller families, from the Antioch Unified School District for its appraised fair-market value, $306,000. The price is reduced because the land comes with a conservation easement as part of mitigation for the School District’s Dozier-Libbey Medical High School and a third-party development. It will be land-banked until the Black Diamond Mines land-use plan is updated.
Acquisition funding is from a grant from the State Department of Parks and Recreation Habitat Conservation Fund, from Measures AA and WW, and from proceeds from the sale of a property near Anderson (Shasta County) that was donated to the Park District in 1970.
“This important acquisition is the culmination of a 30-year effort by the Park District to secure the entryway into beautiful Markley Canyon, the major access route into Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve,” said Chief of Land Acquisition for the Park District, Liz Musbach. “It also provides the opportunity to move Park services from the interior of the park north to its entry point, and to consider options for the preservation and adaptive reuse of the ranch’s historic structure for education programming and recreational use.”
The second purchase is 199 acres that the Park District is purchasing for $1.5 million, its appraised fair-market value, from the Coehlo Machado family. The funds will come from the East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservancy (using grants from Proposition 84 and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered species conservation fund), Contra Costa County and NextEra Conservation.
The property, with its lush rolling hills and oak woodlands, is prime habitat for native species, including many which are threatened and endangered, and is part of an important wildlife corridor that stretches from Antioch to Livermore. Vasco Road bisects the property but a tunnel underpass allows for passage from one side to the other, and may be used to accommodate hikers, bicyclists and equestrians as part of a regional trail network sometime in the future.
The property will expand the boundaries of Vasco Hills Regional Preserve as well as Byron Vernal Pools Regional Preserve. It will be land-banked until the Vasco Hills land use plan is completed.
“It’s exciting to protect so much open space in eastern Contra Costa County,” said Park District director Diane Burgis, who represents that area. “These properties provide a wonderful opportunity for the public to explore, see wildlife and learn about the history of the area.”
Maps and more information is available HERE.
The East Bay Regional Park District is a system of beautiful public parks and trails in Alameda and Contra Costa counties east of San Francisco Bay, established in 1934. The system comprises 120,000 acres in 65 parks including over 1,250 miles of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding and nature learning.