EL CERRITO -- Hikers, mountain bikers and environmentalists are trying to encourage the city to purchase a 7-acre plot that would connect trails between the southern and northern hillside areas, two parcels of open space owned by the city.

The plot, known informally as the Busby property, is west of Madera Elementary School between the two hillside areas, said Dave Weinstein, chairman of the El Cerrito Trekkers hiking club.

The Trekkers, the West Contra Costa branch of the Sierra Club and the Friends of Five Creeks, a group devoted to creek preservation, are backing the effort. Weinstein has encouraged his members to e-mail City Council members in support of a purchase.

"Bear in mind that several members of the council already recognize the importance of this parcel," he said.

Mayor Greg Lyman declined to comment on a possible purchase, saying any information he might have would be confidential.

The Trekkers sponsor hikes and have developed trails in the hillside areas.

Hikers envision continuous walks from trailheads at Moeser Lane and Regency Court through the southern hillside area and the Busby property and then downhill across Potrero Avenue to the northern hillside area.

"The Busby property is below Madera School," said Weinstein, in describing the walk in the opposite direction. "City-owned stairs descending from Madera Circle take you to it. You can then walk across a lovely meadow and through trees to connect to the Hillside Area South."


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Mountain bikers would like to create a contiguous loop from the southern hillside area to eliminate having to transport their bikes further up the hill to start their rides, said Gary Hill, coach of the mountain biking team at El Cerrito High School.

Hill, an architect, has designed mountain biking trails in the area that would use existing trails and add others.

"The hillside area is underutilized." said Hill, a newly appointed member of the city's Parks and Recreation Commission. "My thought is that rather than drive or hike in (Berkeley's) Tilden Park, walk a couple of miles that has better views than Tilden."

Norman La Force, representative for the West Contra Costa Group of the Sierra Club, said he sees a number of possibilities for paying for the land.

The city might tap into its share of funding from Measure WW, a bond measure that pays for East Bay Regional Parks District land acquisition, he said.

La Force, a former El Cerrito mayor, also suggested that the city could apply to such agencies as the state Coastal Conservancy, the Trust for Public Land and the Muir Heritage Trust for land acquisition grants.

"We supported this because this property is the last of the major open space in El Cerrito and is adjacent to the hillside natural area," he said. "It would be great to get this property preserved to have a natural park in El Cerrito."

The price for the Busby property, and another attractive plot further north known as the Willis property, might be reasonable because they are on hillsides with creeks and streams running through them and would not be easy to develop for housing, La Force said.

"I suspect that is why they have remained undeveloped all these years," he said.