Seeing Green

Image of mountain trail

Soon to be on the beaten path?

The Irish know a thing or two about marketing. First there is green. It appears even in food–like cabbage and beer. There are evocative logos–leprechauns, shamrocks, harps. At this time of the year wearin’ o’ the green becomes obligatory even for those whose roots are far removed from the “old sod”.

All of this ballyhoo comes at an appropriate time of the year. Our very own hills wear Irish green for a few brief months. Since many of us have willfully chosen to join our Irish friends in their celebration of all things green, why not extend this clever marketing to a celebration our own “new sod”?

Wherever you are in the South Bay, if you raise your eyes slightly, you will see voluptuous green hills–hills that, for the most part, remain unaltered by human hands. This is partly because it is more difficult to build on a slope than flat land. But it is largely due to the vision of many who have sought for years to preserve this lovely sight for anyone who wishes to gaze on it.

The recent acquisition of the Kirk Ranch, adjacent to Alum Rock Park, by the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority and the Trust for Public Lands adds another piece to the jigsaw puzzle of hillside properties, in hands both public and private, that ring the Bay.

A Bay Area Ridge Trail encompassing four hundred miles, nine counties, seventy-five parks, that completely circles San Francisco Bay has been in the works for many years. In earlier years the Department of the Interior provided startup money for this ambitious dream. More recently many local groups have collaborated in continuing the project. Two hundred twenty miles of trails have been completed so far.

What a gigantic endeavor this is! Some of the land has been purchased at fair market value by private donation. Some is public land, parks and open space. Some of the trail is on right-of-way agreed to by private owners. And the trail itself, sometimes wrested from seemingly impassable terrain, has been built or maintained by a cross-section of humanity that defies demographic definition.

Clark Smith, a former YSI Board member, currently serves on the Ridge Trail Council. As one of those committed to preserving the green for all to enjoy, he serves as vice-chair of the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority.  He is but one of hundreds who have spent years bringing the hills to the people and this Saturday he will take the people to the hills. At noon on Saturday, March 18th, anyone who wishes can take a hike with him along Penitencia Creek on a part of the Trail that will eventually link Alum Rock Park to Coyote Hellyer Park along Coyote Creek.

Even if you aren’t a Bailey or a Walsh, even if you never have and never will quaff a green brew or wear a shamrock, consider the green, green hills of home. They are yours. Wearin’ o’ the green never looked as good as it does on our very own Bay Area hills.

To hike the hills this Saturday, meet at the Visitors’ Center in Alum Rock Park at noon for a moderate hike. Bring lunch, water, and comfortable walking shoes. Rain cancels. For more information call Clark Smith (408) 294-6008.

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