Posted: 09/13/2011 01:06:59 AM PDT
The Bay Area features some of the most spectacular natural resources in the world. Through several generations, we have built a network of parks, trails and open spaces that have helped millions of families spend valuable time in the great outdoors. Continuing this effort is perhaps the most important legacy we can leave for our children and our children's children, and it is one of the most urgent tasks facing the Bay Area's rapidly growing population.
Nowhere is this truer than along the route envisioned for the Bay Area Ridge Trail, which would span 10 counties and will, upon completion, provide 550 miles of uninterrupted habitat and trails from San Jose to Napa and back. The Bay Area Ridge Trail will allow millions of residents (and visitors) of all ages, incomes and abilities the opportunity to see for themselves why our region is a natural treasure.
Bay Area residents have been working hard to make the dream of this regional trail a reality since 1989. More than 330 miles of the Ridge Trail have already been established, but that leaves more than 200 miles of trail easements still to be secured to make this ambitious vision a reality.
To complete the Ridge Trail, we need to take the opportunity to purchase environmentally and recreationally valuable properties when they become available. Here in Solano County, residents now have an opportunity to purchase just such a property, which has been the subject of legal battles for more than 30 years.received approval to build 370 homes within Green Valley in 2008, but a lawsuit by a local community group prevented the plans from moving forward. A recent legal settlement has made it possible for the Solano Land Trust to protect these 1,500 acres at a cost of $13.5 million; the first 330 acres have already been purchased for $3 million in locally raised open-space funds.
While there is no doubt that $13.5 million is a lot of money, the current property ownersuggested the property was worth as much as $125 million within the last decade. With land values down nearly 90 percent, the purchase price is a relative bargain.
The property offers tremendous recreational value. The purchase would enable the Bay AreaRidge Trail to one day connect from Rockville Hills Regional Park in Solano County up to the Napa River. It would also add significantly to a contiguous ecosystem for native flora and fauna in the area, thus improving the chances of survival for these sensitive species as the effects of climate change continue to take hold.
Our region continues to see steady population growth, which will indeed require more housing in coming decades. The Association of Bay Area Governments projects that our regional population will grow by 20 percent during the next 25 years. We must take care to preserve the high quality of life we all enjoy as we accommodate these new residents, and that means compact growth along transportation corridors while preserving public recreational opportunities so that everyone can enjoy the Bay Area's natural beauty and the many outdoor opportunities it provides.
We have a chance to secure a balanced land-use future throughout the region that includes access to nature and preserves important habitat. The right choices today will be appreciated by families across the Bay Area -- today and for generations into the future.
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The author has represented California's 7th Congressional District, which includes portions of Contra Costa and Solano Counties, since 1975.