Marin County and the Bay Area are blessed with an abundance of natural beauty, open space and trails. This region is also the home of true pioneers in the Land Trust Movement, such as the Trust for Public Land, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the Marin Agricultural Land Trust, and the group that may have started them all, back in the early 70s, my own neighborhood Homestead Valley Land Trust.
It took vision, those years ago, to realize that our pristine open space would be developed into housing tracts without fierce protectors and enormous public support. The Homestead Valley Land Trust, like so many others, usually works modestly, behind the scenes, weeding, monitoring and maintaining the land, so that my family and I can literally walk out our front door and enjoy a beautiful trail hike, watching the seasonal flow of wildflowers and wildlife, as if the modern world hadn’t interfered at all.
Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same way. The Land Trust was recently in the news when a homeowner who abutted a popular trail encroached onto the land and claimed it as their own, with their own elaborate backyard landscaping.
This happens a lot, and it’s usually not an accident. People move into homes and find the long-time trails a nuisance and seek to close them off and privatize them. Or they illegally spread their homes and land onto the open space. I feel very strongly that our local (and taxpayer-supported) trails remain open for use by everyone — for recreation, for walking to school and other destinations, and for emergency egress from homes.
Another local group, Mill Valley’s Steps, Lanes and Paths, has also worked tirelessly to this end, by maintaining and marking paths and encouraging people to use them, so that it will be more common knowledge that our town has a wonderful system of stairs and paths leading up into the hills and out to the trails of Mt. Tamalpais and beyond.
A century ago, Mill Valley was a railroad town, and commuters returning from San Francisco would disembark from the train, retrieve their lanterns and head up the paths to their hillside homes. A young girl from those days wrote that, when it was dark, the lanterns lights winked and shone like fireflies.
I wrote a letter to the Marin Independent Journal, praising our tireless, passionate stewards of open space. My surroundings, and my daily life, would indeed be different without their work. The full letter is here.
Ring Mountain in Tiburon was also saved from development. Mt. Tamalpais is seen in the background. More about my recent Ring Mountain wildflower hike is here.
Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman