“Accept the donated Viera–North Peak and CEMEX properties for starters” – Save Mount Diablo
Asks public to support effort
By Laura Kindsvater, Senior Communications Manager, Save Mount Diablo
Mount Diablo State Park hasn’t added a new property since 2007—16 years ago. For eight years, Save Mount Diablo has been trying to transfer our 165-acre Viera–North Peak property on the very slopes of Mount Diablo’s North Peak, for free. More than a year ago, the CEMEX quarry publicly announced it wanted to donate 101 acres next to the state park’s Mitchell Canyon, including a section of the historic Black Point Trail. We need the public’s help to urge California State Parks to get moving on these critical acquisitions.
Save Mount Diablo’s Executive Director, Ted Clement, stated, “At Save Mount Diablo, we have worked hard to build a large pool of strategic properties waiting to be added to Mount Diablo State Park—properties like the Balcerzak inholding, the Viera–North Peak property, part of Curry Canyon Ranch, and the CEMEX land. We are poised to dramatically increase the size, value, integrity, and stunning splendor of Mount Diablo State Park for more public benefit and connection to nature. Now is the time for action!”
We’ve worked closely with the state for 50 years, helping them acquire land. Mount Diablo State Park’s General Plan includes 7,500 acres of “appropriate future additions,” most on the actual slopes of Mount Diablo’s two main peaks. Sometimes they’d buy property, sometimes we would.
Sixteen years ago, California State Parks stopped making progress on any new additions to Mount Diablo State Park. Save Mount Diablo has stepped in to save threatened properties that should be in the state park until the state could move forward, or they would have been lost.
Within the “appropriate additions” area, we’ve purchased 165-acre Viera–North Peak, 1,080-acre Curry Canyon Ranch, 76-acre Wright Canyon, 20-acre Young Canyon, 95-acre Anderson Ranch, 29-acre Smith Canyon, the 10-acre Balcerzak inholding, and very soon, the 6.69-acre Krane Pond property, locking up eight critical properties worth more than $12 million.
Several more properties make sense as additions, including the 101-acre CEMEX property donation above Mitchell Canyon. Save Mount Diablo negotiated with CEMEX for over six years to have this land donated to Mount Diablo State Park. In 2022, the CEMEX corporation agreed and publicly announced it would make this donation to Mount Diablo State Park.
We take care of and clean up the properties we acquire before conveying these lands to Mount Diablo State Park.
Reasons abound for the logjam. State budget shortfalls during recessions. Proposals to close state parks in 2008 and 2011. Several new State Park Directors and several reorganizations.
One of the biggest problems was the loss of experienced land acquisition staff in Sacramento. But state voters also approved resource bonds in 1998, 2001, 2006, and 2018, each with hundreds of millions of dollars for state parks. The acquisition department should be back up to speed.
As California State Parks faltered, nonprofit land trusts all over the state have stepped in to protect critical properties that might have been lost. We’re told that Viera–North Peak and Curry Canyon Ranch properties are on California State Parks’ top priority list, and park staff urged us to acquire the Balcerzak inholding, which had complicated park management for decades.
We were told that acquisitions might resume if we got funding from other sources, so we did, or helped with management for some time, which we agreed to do. The East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservancy provided all funding for Viera–North Peak. All they require is a conservation easement or a deed restriction to ensure long-term protection—which California State Parks has so far failed to accept.
After eight years without progress on Viera–North Peak—a free, turnkey property on the very slopes of the mountain, an appropriate addition that California State Parks pursued for years before we were finally able to acquire it—we and the public are getting frustrated.
We’ve asked Senator Steve Glazer and Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan to help move things forward, which they have kindly been doing, and we’re asking the public to urge state parks officials and the California State Parks Commission to make progress.
We are grateful that a small working group has formed, made up of our terrific partners at California State Parks and the East Contra Costa Habitat Conservancy, to help us get lands added to Mount Diablo State Park. However, we recognize that lands not being added to California State Parks is a large statewide issue, so our small working group also needs the voice and support of the public to further our efforts to break the logjam and get strategic lands added to Mount Diablo State Park.
See video of Save Mount Diablo Executive Director Ted Clement and Land Conservation Director Seth Adams speaking about this issue is available on Save Mount Diablo’s YouTube channel.
We’re asking the public to please send a message simultaneously to these individuals and agencies using this link: bit.ly/3LXEhq8.
About Save Mount Diablo
Save Mount Diablo is a nationally accredited, nonprofit land trust founded in 1971 with a mission to preserve Mount Diablo’s peaks, surrounding foothills, watersheds, and connection to the Diablo Range through land acquisition and preservation strategies designed to protect the mountain’s natural beauty, biological diversity and historic and agricultural heritage; enhance our area’s quality of life; and provide educational and recreational opportunities consistent with protection of natural resources. To learn more, please visit www.savemountdiablo.org.