A continuous 44-mile regional trail will soon stretch through five parks from Livermore down into Fremont, as local nonprofit the Tri-Valley Conservancy has announced plans to construct a final missing bridge link connector starting next August.
The bridge will cross a segment of the Arroyo del Valle, connecting the trail in Livermore's Sycamore Grove Park to that winding through Del Valle Regional Park. Once in place, the trail will run continuously from Sycamore Grove Park to Mission Peak in Fremont.
"For years, thousands of people using a Sycamore Grove Park trail have been forced to stop at the Arroyo Del Valle, where the current trail ends," said the conservancy's spokeswoman Beryl Anderson. "Tri-Valley Conservancy wants to resolve this problem by building a permanent bridge across the creek, so that hikers, equestrians, cyclists, strollers and people with disabilities will have year-round access to more of the park’s recreational benefits and natural beauty."
She added that the bridge will also be beneficial for the creek's water quality and the nearby ecology -- parkgoers will now be able to cross the water on a specified path, rather than forging ahead with their own route and disturbing wildlife in the process.
Construction on the bridge is expected to begin August 2019 and finish up later that fall. Once this last link is in place, the trail will run through 25,000 acres of open space through five parks: Sycamore Grove Park, Del Valle Regional Park, Ohlone Regional Wilderness, Sunol Regional Wilderness and Mission Peak Regional Preserve.
The final cost of the overall trail connection project is estimated at a little over $1 million, which includes the upcoming bridge, trail building, habitat improvement, habitat restoration and park visitor amenities, among other items.
The idea of melding together the 44-mile trail has been simmering for many years.
"The opportunity to connect more parks and trails to the 28-mile Ohlone Regional Wilderness Trail has long been on the wish lists for neighboring parks and cities because it creates exponential recreation opportunities," Anderson said.
The concept became a real possibility for conservancy officials, however, in 2008, when they were in discussions to purchase the Bobba property in Livermore, "the missing link in preserved public land between park districts," she added.
The National Park Service is currently evaluating the Arroyo del Valle Trail -- the section in Sycamore Grove Park where the trail connection project is happening -- to be potentially designated as part of the official Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, which stretches 1,200 miles from what is now Mexico to San Francisco, tracing the route of Juan Bautista de Anza, a soldier in the Spanish military seeking an overland route from New Spain to "Alta California" in the 1770s.
Construction on the Arroyo del Valle bridge had been slated to begin this past August, but was postponed a year in order to protect sensitive bird and bat species nesting nearby along the trail during fledgling season.
Other partners and donors involved in this project include Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, Bay Area Barns and Trails, Chevron, the city of Livermore, the Coastal Conservancy, Dean Witter Foundation, East Bay Regional Park District, Friends of the Vineyards, Livermore Area Recreation & Park District, the Sierra Club, the Joseph & Vera Long Foundation and Zone 7 Water Agency.
The project's high levels of collaboration and public support has led to an unusual problem, Anderson said -- items available to engrave at the trail connection are almost all sold out. Only tree markers remain, which will plant a native tree in the name of your choosing.
"Connecting trails is critical not only for people but also for plants and wildlife," Anderson said. "Connected trails mean that there is more land preserved for both recreation and habitat."
"Most importantly from my perspective," she continued, "connected trails create exponential recreation opportunities, drawing more people to parks through more possibilities and access to exercise and adventure. Without people connecting to the land and what it has to offer -- a place to play, nature, gorgeous views, fresher air and cleaner water -- they may not understand why it’s so crucial that we protect it before it’s gone."