Tri-Cities Voice Newspaper - What's Happening - Fremont, Union City, Newark California

October 4, 2005 > Border Watch

Border Watch

Coyote Hills and Quarry Lake entrances viewed with concern

Part of the discussion at the meeting of the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) and city of Fremont Liaison Committee centered on land currently vacant or used for agricultural purposes at entrances to Coyote Hills Park and the proposed Quarry Lake Park. Assistant General Manager Robert Doyle, Inter-Agency Planning, Land Acquisition, Regional Trails & Environmental Services/GIS spoke about current and future challenges to and opportunities for the park district. TCV asked Mr. Doyle to briefly repeat his comments for our readers.

TCV: You spoke of the vacant land adjacent to the new Quarry Park. Who owns this land and what is the proposed use of it? How will this affect the new park?

Doyle: Since an extension was granted to the quarry about eight years ago under the condition that it be converted to a park, it is no surprise that the land use will change. One of the things we have asked the quarry people to do is plant a "screen" along the boundary; that has been done and those trees have grown considerably. Whatever happens on the adjacent property owned by Cargill will have an impact on our site.

About two years ago, Cargill had some discussions with the city [Fremont] - not with us directly - saying that they were going to proceed with some type of development, adding that 'a significant portion of the property will be wetland mitigation.'

TCV: Does wetland mitigation mean the land will be left as is?

Doyle: It will be left or restored further. If Cargill is going to develop part of the property, they may have to enhance the wetland portion. We see a wetland buffer next to the park site as a very good and compatible use. Development next to the park site could create conflicts.

TCV: How large is the Cargill property?

Doyle: It is approximately 160 acres and very important since this is one of the last large pieces of open space - besides the Patterson Ranch - in the area. Following Cargill's sale of a large block of its land to the State of California a few years ago, disposition of this property has been put on the back burner. We haven't heard anything for a couple of years.

TCV: What type of development is expected on the property?

Doyle: That property is zoned for commercial/industrial, the same as across the street. This property was considered quite a while ago, whereas the Patterson Ranch currently has open space zoning. We believe the new park will be completed and open by the time anything happens with the Cargill property.

TCV: How does EBRPD view the Patterson Ranch property adjacent to Coyote Hills?

Doyle: In addition to our general concerns of wetlands, wildlife habitat and those types of issues, the district is also concerned about the view toward the hills and the park. If development occurred in front of the park, it would have a major impact on what people would see. The frontage along Paseo Padre is important - whatever happens there should be compatible with the park. If we could, we would buy the whole thing, but the land is very valuable and public dollars for land purchase are just not there today.

TCV: Are there other factors of development that will affect Coyote Hills?

Doyle: The whole area - Cargill property and Patterson Ranch - is a flood plain. Water backs up into Coyote Hills and drains into Alameda Creek. In big winters, the park trails and roads are flooded. Additional development on the Patterson property can have a drainage impact on the park. That will be a complicated issue. We want to make sure that any water coming into the park from that area is of a quality that doesn't damage the habitat or wildlife.

One of the unique opportunities of the Patterson Ranch property is the ability to expand the existing willow grove, the type that used to cover a vast area of Alameda County. The willow thicket (called a Sasal) at the Patterson Slough is the last remainder of that valuable habitat and could be expanded to create large willow wetlands which are pretty rare. This is the last place in the entire East Bay where the opportunity exists to have an extensive fresh-water marsh.

TCV: Who manages Coyote Hills?

Doyle: The hills are part of the EBRPD and we have agreements with the Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District which owns a large portion of the area for flood control. Most of the marsh area is actually owned by the county, but we operate it as part of the park and the county operates it as part of flood control.

TCV: Are you in contact with the owners of Patterson Ranch?

Doyle: Yes. They would like to reach a compromise that allows them to develop as much of their property as possible but will also address concerns of citizens and the park district. They are open to adding land to the park and restoring it for wildlife habitat. Where that will happen and how much will be set aside is still to be worked out. We are hopeful that we can find a balance of all the issues.

TCV: Is all acreage of the Patterson Ranch property available for development?

Doyle: A large portion of the property has an existing agricultural easement that precludes development. It is set aside for permanent agriculture. It is the land along Paseo Padre which is flat and provides easy access to the road that is extremely valuable - beyond the ability of the park district to purchase.

TCV: Is there an immediate threat of development on the Patterson Ranch property?

Doyle: The Patterson Ranch property is our top priority in this area. Disposition of this land will set the final boundary of the wonderful Coyote Hills park; either a good or bad boundary that we will have to live with forever. It has a long ways to go, but within the next 2-3 years, decisions will be made.

We want to make sure that any residential use of the land does not impact views and wildlife of the park. Cats and dogs can be extremely detrimental to a wildlife preserve. It is a matter of where it will be developed, not if. The entrance to the park is very important to the district.

TCV: What about athletic fields?

Doyle: The district supports recreation. We manage a lot of natural lands, but some recreation too. It is a matter of where such facilities are placed and what impacts they will have on our lands. We hope that any property next to the park will be compatible and well maintained.

 
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