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Should El Cerrito Buy Open Space Below Madera School?

Three local outdoors and environmental groups are urging the City of El cerrito to buy a seven-acre site.

Members of three local outdoors and environmental groups are asking the city to purchase a seven-acre parcel below Madera School that would link El Cerrito's northern and southern hillside trails, according to an article in the San Jose Mercury News.

The El Cerrito Trekkers, the West Contra Costa branch of the Sierra Club and Friends of Five Creeks say the undeveloped plot, known locally as the "Busby property," is one of the last major privately owned open spaces in El Cerrito.

It could serve as a park and allow hikers and mountain bikers access to longer, linked trails, backers of the proposal say.

Group members have emailed city officials to urge the purchase, but to date there's been no public action by the city.

You may read the complete Mercury News article here.

What do you think — should the city buy the Busby property and add it to El Cerrito's park system? Tell us in the comments section below.

John Stashik February 01, 2013 at 07:34 PM
If the city is flush with cash, go buy it. Otherwise, let someone else purchase the land. I won't suggest that a city with so much extra cash return some to the taxpayers. I thought there were other big buck improvements the city needed to deal with--like a new safety building-- other than buying hillside land.
Scott Robinson February 01, 2013 at 07:49 PM
I'd donate to that cause ...
Kathy A. February 01, 2013 at 10:50 PM
From the Merc News article: Norman La Force, representative for the West Contra Costa Group of the Sierra Club, said he sees a number of possibilities for paying for the land. The city might tap into its share of funding from Measure WW, a bond measure that pays for East Bay Regional Parks District land acquisition, he said. La Force, a former El Cerrito mayor, also suggested that the city could apply to such agencies as the state Coastal Conservancy, the Trust for Public Land and the Muir Heritage Trust for land acquisition grants. "We supported this because this property is the last of the major open space in El Cerrito and is adjacent to the hillside natural area," he said. "It would be great to get this property preserved to have a natural park in El Cerrito." The price for the Busby property, and another attractive plot further north known as the Willis property, might be reasonable because they are on hillsides with creeks and streams running through them and would not be easy to develop for housing, La Force said.
Kathy A. February 01, 2013 at 10:59 PM
I'm a big fan of the Hillside Nature area. That open space is something that makes our community special. This is one of two plots of private land between the two major sections of the Nature area; I hope there is a way to acquire it, and add it to this public open space. As mentioned by the Mercury News article, the land is really not a good candidate for development, being on a steep hillside with creeks that need protection. Since it has gone undeveloped all this time, and development is not likely -- it would be a wonderful gesture if the owners donated the property to the city. Barring that, I hope that a deal can be worked out to make this space part of our lovely Hillside Nature Area.
Charles G February 01, 2013 at 11:16 PM
I agree with Scotts suggestion - I'd donate to this cause also. If the City can add some funds it would be great too, but that should not stop us from trying to raise funds privately to add to any City funds for this important opportunity (open space is not goint to be around forever - we should save whataver is left in El Cerrito while we still can). Think what this area would be like if folks like Tilden had not had the "long view"!
John Stashik February 02, 2013 at 06:11 AM
Remember the dark days of La Force as Mayor? The most dysfunctional council in my memory. At least we have a decent, civil bunch in office today. La Force needs to take a long Sierra Club hike somewhere.
Borris Batanov February 02, 2013 at 04:00 PM
"Flush with cash?" If EC is "flush with cash," the first thing it should do is rescind the recent increase in sales tax to bring it in line with that of neighboring cities. If there's any funds left over after this, the city ought to hire more cops and beef up law enforcement. The level of crime in this city is unacceptable.
Mark Kay February 02, 2013 at 10:30 PM
Yes, please, to open space. Our city has all the houses it can handle. Open space is precious. I would gladly donate, as long as it doesn't become another soccer field.
Elizabeth Whipple February 03, 2013 at 12:54 AM
Yes, buy the land, then be sure it's available to all. Maybe an off-leash dog area?
Borris Batanov February 03, 2013 at 04:12 PM
Land is extremely steep and would not make a very good park. Most likely, if bought by the city, it would sit unused.
Dave Weinstein February 08, 2013 at 04:09 AM
Actually, the land already gets a lot of use, and has, for at least three decades. When I first moved to El Cerrito in 1981, before Regency Court was developed and was just wild land, all of this area was considered to be part of the Hillside Area, even though it was privately owned. Even today, many people walk it. Trail Trekkers, which I chair, would love to see an improved network of trails throughout our city, both in open space like this property, and using public stairs and pathways through neighborhoods. If the city owned this property it would make it possible to go from the southern to the northern portions of the Hillside Area without detouring on streets. You'd have to cross streets sure, but not walk along them. If you haven't been to this spot, you should visit.

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