SLT in the News

Land Trust wants more time for Rockville Trails purchase

Author: Barry Eberling
Date: Feb 15, 2012

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Solano Land Trust Executive Director Nicole Byrd walks through part of the 1,170 acres of Rockville Trails Estates that the organization is trying to preserve as open space. (Brad Zweerink/Daily Republic file 2011)

FAIRFIELD — The Solano Land Trust is seeking more money and more time in its nearly year-long effort to purchase the 1,500-acre Rockville Trails Estates property.

Land Trust Executive Director Nicole Byrd expressed hope that both are on their way.

As things stand now, the Land Trust needs to raise another $5 million by Feb. 28 to complete the $13.5 million purchase and establish a new regional hiking area. Otherwise, the property owner could build homes on parts of the property.

More money should be forthcoming. Byrd said the state Wildlife Conservation Board should vote on a $2 million contribution at its May meeting.

Whether more time is forthcoming hinges on negotiations with the Rockville Trails Estates owners. The owners could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

“We’re actively working on an extension and I think we’re going to be able to work that out,” Byrd said. “For now, until that’s confirmed, I’m still focused on the Feb. 28 date.”

Whatever happens, the Land Trust will end up owning part of Rockville Trails Estates. The $13.5 million, 1,500-acre purchase is broken down into two phases. In spring 2011, the Land Trust bought the first phase of 330 acres for $3 million.

Byrd said buying the remaining 1,170 acres to establish a 1,500-acre open space area would mean several things for the community.

“It means a beautiful, natural park,” Byrd said. “One thousand five hundred acres is about twice the size of (Fairfield’s) Rockville Park and it’s very close to the city and very accessible from Interstate 80. It’s also the view shed of Suisun Valley.”

A Rockville Trails Estates park would provide a place for people to come and ride horses, she said.

It would also allow for an additional segment of Bay Area Ridge Trail, she said. The Ridge Trail is a regional effort to build a trail encircling the Bay Area.

A Rockville Trails Estates trail segment, if it could be extended over neighboring properties into Skyline Park in Napa County, could ultimately allow hikers to reach the Napa River.

The Rockville Trails Estates owners in 2008 won Solano County permission to build 360 homes on the site. The Sierra Club and Green Valley Landowners Association sued the county.

A lawsuit settlement gives the Land Trust the option to buy the 1,500 acres for $13.5 million by Feb. 28. Otherwise, the owners can build a smaller version of the original Rockville Trails Estates, one that would have 185 homes.

Besides raising $13.5 million for the purchase, the Land Trust is trying to establish a $2 million endowment so it will have money to care for the property. So far, Fairfield has agreed to contribute $1 million in open space assessments paid by homeowners in some parts of the city.

Taking everything into consideration — the $13.5 million Rockville Trails Estates purchase and the $2 million endowment — and the Land Trust has a goal of $15.5 million, of which it has raised $9.5 million. But $1 million of that is restricted to the endowment.

Byrd said she has leads on additional grants in the $10,000 to $250,000 range. The Land Trust is also seeking donations from the community, she said.

“All donations large and small are going to help us meet our goal,” Byrd said.

The stronger the community support, the stronger the Land Trust’s case for an extension, she said.

 

Please go to http://www.solanolandtrust.org to find out more about the Rockville Trails Estates donation campaign.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929, or beberling@dailyrepublic.net.