SLT in the News

Rockville Trails deal clears escrow

Author: Barry Eberling, the Daily Republic
Date: Sep 06, 2012

The one-year, $13.5 million drive to buy 1,500 acres of rocky, oak-sprinkled hills has succeeded. The Land Trust announced Aug. 15 that it had met the deadline to raise the money and announced Wednesday that the deal had closed escrow.

Rockville Trails will be the greater Bay Area’s newest natural park, a Land Trust press release said.<\p>

But fundraising work remains to be done. The Land Trust needs to pay back a one-year, $250,000 loan and wants to raise another $800,000 to complete a $2 million endowment to care for the property.

On another front, the Land Trust will work on a park management plan. It also must work to comply with environmental laws before opening Rockville Trails to the public.<\p>

Some people think that environmental laws don’t apply to a proposed park, but that’s not the case, Land Trust Executive Director Nicole Byrd said Wednesday.<\p>

“We have to get approval from the agencies, just like everyone else,” Byrd said.<\p>

One goal of the park is to preserve habitat for wildlife. Land Trust Project Manager Sue Wickham said the idea is to avoid having park users affect sensitive areas. That, too, will be part of the upcoming studies.<\p>

“People don’t realize the potential impact with bikes and feet and horses,” Wickham said Wednesday.<\p>

As an initial public access step, the Land Trust plans to start offering docent-led hikes in the park in spring 2013.<\p>

The name “Rockville Trails” comes from the Rockville Trails Estates housing development that was to be built on the site. The Solano County Board of Supervisors approved the project in 2008. Opponents sued and a lawsuit settlement gave the Solano Land Trust the chance to buy the land.<\p>

Now the Land Trust can name the property. So far, it has only dropped the “estates” from the housing project name.<\p>

Byrd said that keeping the name “Rockville Trails” might prove confusing, given that the city’s Rockville Hills Park is nearby.<\p>

The Land Trust has offered naming rights to the park in return for a particularly large donation — the original asking price was $1 million. Even if no one steps forward, though, a name change would seem to be likely at some point.<\p>

“We’re going to be working with the community with that, one way or another,” Byrd said.<\p>

The Solano Land Trust has existed since 1986 and has made several large land purchases over the years, among them the 2,070-acre Rush Ranch in Suisun Marsh and 1,039-acre Lynch Canyon in the hills between Fairfield and Vallejo. It raised money for those deals almost exclusively through grants and Fairfield and county open space assessment funds.<\p>

Grants and open space assessments again provided the bulk of the Rockville Trails money. But the Land Trust also mounted a community donations campaign. An anonymous donor pledged to match up to $200,000 in other donations raised and the Land Trust was able to take advantage of the offer.<\p>

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929, or beberling@dailyrepublic.net. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.

[See this article]