With a groundbreaking ceremony last week, the East Bay Regional Park District officially started work on a key new section of the Iron Horse Regional Trail in Pleasanton.

The new 1.5-mile trail extension will connect the Pleasanton-Dublin BART station to Santa Rita Road. It will provide a safe, nonmotorized route for kids and adults to travel between homes, schools, work and shopping. And it will connect the BART station to businesses and employment centers in Pleasanton.

The Iron Horse Regional Trail is a paved pedestrian and bicycle trail that now extends more than 30 miles between Martinez and Pleasanton. Most of it is within the former Southern Pacific Railroad right-of-way, a rail line established in 1891 and abandoned in 1977.

When completed, the trail will be a continuous, multiuse route extending all the way to the San Joaquin County line near Altamont Pass. Funding for the $4.2 million extension came from multiple sources: the U.S. Transportation Department, the park district's Measure WW bonds, Caltrans, the Alameda County Transportation Commission and the city of Pleasanton.

HIKE options: As spring morphs into summer, organized hiking opportunities for youth and adults abound in the East Bay Regional Parks. Here are some of the options:

Outdoor Discoveries is a series of programs for children ages 3 to 6 accompanied by a parent, led by park district naturalists Katie Colbert and Cat Taylor. Programs cost $6 ($8 for nonresidents), and registration is required.


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The next one is from 10 to 11:30 a.m. May 23 at Shadow Cliffs Regional Recreation Area in Pleasanton. Meet at the Vineyard Avenue staging area. To register, call 888-327-2757. Select option 2 and refer to program 2399.

Saturday and Sunday Strolls explore various regional parks on 2- to 5-mile hikes, always from 10 a.m. to noon. The walks are family-friendly. Hikes are free, and reservations are not required.

The next stroll is on Saturday, May 11 at Redwood Regional Park. Meet at the Trudeau Staging Area at 11500 Skyline Boulevard in Oakland for a 3-mile loop. For information, call 510-544-3187.

Wednesday Walks start at 9:30 a.m. and can be challenging. There's a moderately strenuous 5-miler scheduled Wednesday at Anthony Chabot Regional Park in Oakland. Meet at the Clyde Woolridge Staging Area at the junction of Skyline Boulevard and Grass Valley Road. It's free, and no reservations are required. For information, call 510-544-3282 or email cgarcia@ebparks.org.

Contact Ned MacKay at ned-mackay@comcast.net.

Hikes for Tykes are free, average about a mile and are designed for young children with a parent. Strollers aren't recommended for most of the trails. Children and their parents learn about regional park plants and animals along the way. Meet for the next Tyke Hike at 10:30 a.m. May 21 at the Fairmont Ridge Staging Area of Anthony Chabot Regional Park. It's located on Fairmont Avenue just uphill from Lake Chabot Road in Castro Valley. For information, call 510-544-3187.

Canine Capers are walks with your four-legged friend, led by naturalist Kristina Parkison. Kristina offers homemade snacks to good dogs. Her next caper is from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Sunol Regional Wilderness in southern Alameda County. It's free, but registration is required. Call 888-327-2757, select option 2 and refer to program 2158.

Another organized hiking series is Women on Common Ground, led by naturalist Katie Colbert, intended for women who enjoy the outdoors but have concerns for personal safety. Katie's next is a dinner hike from 6 to 10 p.m. on Sunday, May 26 at Las Trampas Regional Wilderness in San Ramon. It's a steep 4-miler to view the planets.

Katie's hikes are free, but registration is required. Call 888-327-2757. Select option 2 and for May 26, refer to program 2488.

Last but not least is Tuesday Twilights, naturalist-led sunset walks of varying difficulty. Water, snacks and flashlights are advisable equipment. One of the Twilights is a short stroll from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, June 4 at Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley. Meet at the visitor center on Big Break Road off Highway 4. For information, call 510-544-3053.

TILDEN: Tilden Nature Area in Berkeley has a full schedule of nature programs in the coming days.

There's a family nature walk from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 11, led by naturalist Anthony Fisher. Interpretive student aide Morgan Rani Evans will supervise a butterfly garden work party from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Sunday, May 12, during which you can learn which plants attract the beautiful insects so you can plan your own garden. Then from 2:30 to 4 p.m. the same day, naturalist James Wilson will host a greenhouse program about edible plants.

All these programs are based at Tilden's Environmental Education Center located at the north end of Central Park Drive. For information, call 510-544-2233.

Ned MacKay writes a regular column about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at ned-mackay@comcast.net.

Contact Ned MacKay at ned-mackay@comcast.net.