CLAYTON -- A rural creekside property used in the past as a golf course and a horse pasture is a conservation group's latest and biggest purchase to protect and restore Marsh Creek, the second longest creek in Contra Costa County.

Save Mount Diablo announced Thursday it has paid $650,000 to buy and preserve the 51-acre Big Bend property along Marsh Creek between Clayton and Brentwood. The scenic property with big oak trees and a flood plain gets its name from a sharp U-shaped bend in the creek.

The Big Bend parcel hosts a 3,100-foot-long stretch of Marsh Creek, the longest stretch of creek frontage on the eight Marsh Creek properties Save Mount Diablo has acquired over the past five years, said Ron Brown, executive director of the Walnut Creek-based conservation group. That frontage makes this land a rich water source for wildlife and plants in an arid climate.

Save Mount Diablo’s Ron Brown, left, and Seth Adams pose for a photograph at the newly acquired "Big Bend" site in Clayton, Calif., on
Save Mount Diablo's Ron Brown, left, and Seth Adams pose for a photograph at the newly acquired "Big Bend" site in Clayton, Calif., on Friday, April 11, 2014. (Susan Tripp Pollard/Bay Area News Group)

"It's an important part of a very long-term project to improve Marsh Creek," he said.

Leaders of the conservation group said they hope to turn the land over to a public park agency someday, but that could be many years off, given the financial struggles of California's park system.

In the meantime, Save Mount Diablo will focus on protecting the land and improving the environment there, with measures such as putting in native plants and managing runoff from the manure layers left by horses. The last horses were moved off the property earlier this year.

Besides the creek, the property has many oak trees, a large floodplain and habitat for California red-legged frogs, a threatened species that lives there.


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"This is a good site for restoration," said Seth Adams, the conservation group's land programs manager.

Marsh Creek is more than 33 miles long and flows from the Mount Diablo foothills into the Delta near Oakley. About 10 miles of it is protected, Adams said.

Passers-by on Marsh Creek Road recognize the Big Bend property as the place where up to 50 to 60 horses at a time were pastured for years before the property went into foreclosure, Brown said. Save Mount Diablo bought the property earlier this year from a bank in an online auction.

"It was a little strange not knowing whom we were bidding against," Brown said, "but we were familiar with the property, and we got a reasonable price."

Save Mount Diablo will lead a hike on the property from 9 a.m. to noon June 1. Reservations for the hike can be made by visiting SaveMountDiablo.org.

Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267. Follow him at Twitter.com/deniscuff.