PLEASANTON -- The Bay Area's largest park system will test a new way to get people into its great outdoors -- driving them to the top of a ridgeland park to hike around.
Debuting this spring, a park shuttle van will make three trips per day on three days hauling hikers up Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park. The fee: $10 for East Bay residents and $12 for others.
The shuttle would mean easier access to a 1,600-foot-high ridge too steep and too high for some people to walk or pedal to.
"The whole idea is about providing public access to park areas that are too difficult for many people to reach," said Carol Severin, a regional park board member from Castro Valley who has pushed for the shuttle.
Aging baby boomers with trick knees and families with young children are among those deterred from visiting the park, she said.
"We have spent a lot of time and money to acquire and improve the park so people can appreciate its beautiful views and trails," Severin said. "What good is it if people can't use it?"
Many of the regional parks in Contra Costa and Alameda counties share an access challenge -- they have steep trails leading up hills.
Pleasanton Ridge, Severin said, is well suited for shuttle because it has particularly steep entry trails, long flat trails at the top, and few park entrances. The park covers some 7,500 acres stretching along nearly seven miles of land west of Interstate 680 from Sunol to northern Pleasanton.
In the pilot project, a park district shuttle van with seats for eight hikers will make three runs departing at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and noon on May 4 and 15, and June 1. Riders must have reservations, and there will not be space for bikes or dogs.
After taking the van ride up, hikers will have the option of taking a 4.6 mile or a 9.2 mile hike back.
Anne Kassebaum, the regional park recreation services manager, said her agency will use the pilot project to determine if there is enough interest in keeping or expanding the program.
Shuttles will be limited to dry months, however, because park officials don't want to drive passengers on wet dirt or mud.
Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267. Follow him at Twitter.com/deniscuff
A park van will drive hikers to the top of Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park on May 4 and 15, and June 1 with trips departing at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., and noon. For information or reservations, visit http://ebparksonline.org or call 1-888-327-2757, option 2. The fee is $10 per East Bay resident and $12 for others.