So here it is, July 1, 2012, the "D-day" for the 70 state parks on the closure list. And as reported in the National News two days ago - 65 of the 70 parks have received at least a one year reprieve! Hurray!!
But alas. The small tidal marsh, Benicia State Recre-ation Area, is one of the five still needing a rescue. The park is less than one square mile, and is where the Sacra-mento and San Joaquin Rivers empty into San Francisco Bay. There is an abundance of wildlife, and Patty, Roxy and I saw plenty of it on a beautiful day this past February.
Although the park is putting up the gates today, many of the 200,000 people who visit annually to hike, walk, run, ride bicycles and fish, will still have access to it. A large number of the park users are local, entering via a pede-strian freeway overpass from a Benicia neighborhood across Interstate 780.
There are two short, paved paths going in opposite directions from the entrance. We took the one that runs along the Freeway first. An exercise par-course is on this path. Roxy waited patiently for Patty to finish her exercises.
Short nature paths lead from the exercise trail through the adjacent marshland to the water’s edge. Birds and early spring blooms were a-plenty on these short, lovely marsh trails.
Teasel groves, pyracantha, and blossoming fruit trees graced our walk. Sparrows and Scrub Jays flit back and forth in front of us. And be still my heart - not one - but two Peregrine Falcons!
Fourteen tributaries flow west from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers. pouring through the Carquinez Strait, the narrowest point of the San Francisco Bay.
After exploring the short nature trails and enjoying the long view of the Carquinez Strait and the hillside homes that surround it, we retraced our steps back to the park entrance.
Benicia SRA was financed by the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which requires that lands purchased be kept open to the public, making its closure a bit of a sticky issue.
Next, Patty, Roxy (on leash of course!) and I headed out in the other direction on the 1-1/2 mile walk to Dillon Point. This part of the trail is a paved road shared with cars. However, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday it is closed to vehicle traffic, so we and the other walkers, riders and runners were able to monopolize the entire road. I suppose this will be the case all of the time now that the gate(s) are up.
En route to Dillon Point we were delighted to stumble upon the Forrest Deaner Native Plant Botanical Garden. We spent half an hour reading the well labeled signs and learning more about indigenous plants. It is not clear how this very active garden will be affected by the park closure.
I was pleased to see that the Coffeeberry and Cream Bush Plants were growing side by side. And clearly the Coyote Mint was being appreciated as evidenced by the not quite camouflaged Coyote in the field across from the garden. Coyotes! They are one of my favorite critters and this was my third sighting this year.
At Dillon Point is a popular ﬁshing area where local anglers cast for starry ﬂounder, sturgeon and striped bass, although with the gates up they will now have to walk instead of drive the mile and half to the point, hauling their gear and tackle.
It is also here that the park trail hooks up with the Bay Area Ridge Trail, a trail system being built around the San Francisco Bay. Currently 375 of the eventual 550 miles of trail is complete. I watched a solo hiker as he passed me and headed yonder onto the Bay Trail under the Carquinez Bridge.
A ship approached from the opposite direction. I suddenly had the urge to follow the hiker and just keep walking. But, the first signs of dusk were appearing in the early winter sky and we still had to walk back to the car.
I'm intrigued by the Bay Trail though. Maybe that is what I'll do next.
The Red Winged Blackbirds were out in force now, providing a loud and animated soundtrack for our walk back.
A number of art galleries on First Street in Benicia are still raising money in hopes of saving the Recreation Area. The Benicia Plein Air Gallery has a whole wall with wilderness inspired art. 40% of the profits go to support the Association's efforts. The oil refiner Vallero gave $3,000. But for now the gate is up at Benicia SRA.
I hope to see you at the State Parks, especially now that sixty-five of them have an ever so short reprieve.
This blog is dedicated to the memory of my Father, who loved reading maps, exploring alternate routes, and taking the road less traveled.
Alvin David Dick, April 28, 1926 - May 20, 2012