Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine “Eco-Touring” September 2009.
Living On The Edge
Ramblin’ On, by the Napa Nomad – Eco-excursions in the Napa Valley
By Arvis Northrop
Our rivers flow reminiscent of veins in our geography and the oceans cover two-thirds of the planet. Whether we live inland or right on the coast, humans are instinctively drawn to water’s edge. Rivers, lakes, streams, beachfront property are what we crave. Now, in American Canyon there are eagerly anticipated projects being funded and developed to satisfy the community’s craving to get to the edge of the wetlands and, in the future, easy public access to the Napa River.
Beginning in 1997 the City of American Canyon purchased 460 acres of marshlands between its western border and the Napa River. With an additional $1.5 million grant, new development was underway to “remove the existing levees, raze the abandoned sewer holding ponds and, in general, restore the area to tidal wetlands.” (www.amcanchamber.org/openspace.html). The fortunate residents along Wetlands Edge Road now enjoy a serene and unencumbered view from their front porch, extending all the way to Mt. Tamalpais. Within the last few years there has been a collaboration of citizens and government entities strategizing and negotiating to create recreational access in American Canyon along the Napa River. It’s always inspiring to me to learn of people who have a dream, a desire, a need, and to put forth their ideas to others, then talk, then gather and then take action to bring the dream to reality. Of important note are the staff and volunteers of Friends of the American Canyon Open Spaces, Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District and the American Canyon City Council working together to reach their goals.
Evidence of this collaboration and commitment is a lovely walk along Wetlands Edge Road. Starting at the south corner of Kensington Way and Wetlands Edge Road, the sidewalk meanders north just over a mile to Eucalyptus Drive. This is the Wetlands Edge Linear Path, officially part of the San Francisco Bay Trail. Imagine the vision of all the neighboring communities: to be able to walk or bike from one end of the Bay Area all around and back! And, in American Canyon we have this little slice of the dream to work on. There is a new parking lot at the corner of Eucalyptus Drive. From here you’ll find the beginnings of additional paths that allow us to get closer to the vegetation and wildlife habitat. Benches and picnic tables are ready and waiting for people to enjoy a lunch with the view of majestic Mt. Tamalpais. Standing in American Canyon with Marin County “just across the way” gave me the sense of the connection of our counties and landscapes surrounding the wetlands that feed into the San Pablo Bay.
Soon to come is American Canyon’s portion of the Napa River Trail. From the latest newsletter of Friends of American Canyon Open Spaces: “Final approval has been received from Caltrans for the City’s plan to construct a portion of the Napa River Trail. The trail will be located about 50 yards before the Landfill gate on Eucalyptus Drive, going right (north) through the City’s constructed wetlands (Waste Water Treatment Ponds) then veering west and south about one mile to the Napa River.” To keep up with the progress and to get involved please contact Friends of American Canyon Open Spaces by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a phone message with the City’s Community Services office at 707-648-7275.
For now, a path continues from Eucalyptus Drive onto the gravel road of Commerce Blvd., providing a walk or bike excursion through the woods. You can continue all the way to Green Island Road, turn left and follow it out to the end where it meets the Napa River. This landing sits at the former site and salt ponds of the old Cargill Salt Plant site. A Federal grant of $8.5 million will fund the renovation of the marshlands that will restore the tidal flows and allow native vegetation to flourish again. The goals of the community and its environmental organizations will also flourish, as the Napa River Trail is connected together, connecting humans with their beloved body of water.