The Campaign To Save Almond Ranch

Overview

John Muir Land Trust is actively raising funds to acquire Almond Ranch, a top priority of land conservationists for decades. This stunning 281-acre property south of downtown Martinez is the proverbial “missing piece” --- a place at the heart of the open space we have worked so hard together to protect. If we succeed, the ranch will expand a preserve of vital natural resources and establish a hub that connects major trails and adjacent landscapes for the very first time.

Geography

Almond Ranch abuts Mount Wanda and Sky Ranch, two properties conserved by JMLT along the top pf Franklin Ridge. Here are sweeping panoramic views of the Carquinez Strait and Bay Delta region to the north, Mount Diablo and the distant Sierra Nevada to the east, the rolling hills of Briones Regional Park to the south, and San Francisco Bay to the west. The land’s varied terrain includes hilly grasslands, forested valleys, scrub plant communities and riparian areas. The tallest peak climbs to 800 feet —about 300 feet higher than Mount Wanda.

Recreation & Trail Connections

Opening Almond Ranch for public recreation will connect major trails for the first time. The visionary Bay Area Ridge Trail is a 550-mile loop that circumnavigates the entire San Francisco Bay. It now stops at the property line, and there is no viable alternative route. Almond is one of the two remaining acquisitions needed to complete the 50-mile Carquinez Strait Scenic Trail, a beautiful loop around the waters and atop the rolling hills of two counties. The property would serve visitors to the John Muir National Historic Site via Mount Wanda, providing hours of new trails and places to explore.

Vital Connection for 18,000 Acres of Open Space

Saving Almond Ranch will connect three huge conserved landscapes: the Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline and Radke Martinez Regional Shoreline (1,758 acres to the north), Briones Regional Park (6,255 acres to the south), and the 10,000-acre area to the west known as the Franklin Ridge Wildlife and Trail Corridor. This keystone property unites six previous JMLT acquisitions.

Wildlife Habitat

These grasslands, scrub, oak-bay woodlands and riparian areas all provide wonderful habitat for a variety of native, rare and special-status species. The land is designated critical habitat for the Alameda whipsnake, a federally threatened species. Stock ponds on the ranch support another threatened species: the California red-legged frog. An intact corridor along Franklin Ridge would better support essential predators such as mountain lions, American badgers, and gray foxes. The stunning raptors patrolling overhead include golden eagles, white-tailed kites and various species of hawks.

Water

As part of the Alhambra Creek Watershed in the Franklin Ridge, Almond Ranch protects the quality of water and stability of the ecosystem. The headwaters of Strentzel Creek are situated here. This seasonal stream meanders on—and off—the property, winding its way onto West Hills Farm and Mount Wanda before flowing into Alhambra Creek. Named after Dr. John Strentzel, John Muir’s father-in-law, the waterway --- along with stock ponds, seeps and springs ---- nourish plants, trees and animals.

History

Almond Ranch has been a cattle ranch since the mid-1800s, a part of the long ranching history in the area. John Muir owned adjacent property, and he explored this area with his daughters Wanda and Helen.

Next Step

Almond Ranch could be lost to development. Or, if protected, the trails and rolling hills of Almond Ranch could be opened to hikers, dog walkers, cyclists, bird watchers, equestrians, and nature lovers of all ages. John Muir Land Trust must raise $4 million by December 31, 2019 to expand to 1,380 acres what we have protected on these hills. Once preserved, Almond Ranch will provide vital intact habitat and public enjoyment for generations to come. Your support makes the difference.

photo: adam weidenbach

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