SLT in the News

Solano Land Trust makes final push for Rockville Trails Estates

Author: By Barry Eberling, From page A1, Daily Republic
Date: Jul 27, 2012

FAIRFIELD — A year-long-plus quest by the Solano Land Trust to buy 1,500-acre Rockville Trails Estates for $13.5 million comes down to this: Raise the remaining $750,000 in 20 days. The deadline had been Tuesday. But Solano Land Trust Executive Director Nicole Byrd said the nonprofit group now has until Aug. 15 to secure the money for the purchase. Then it could create a natural park more than twice the size of nearby Rockville Hills Park.

“I think we’re going to get close enough to make it happen,” Byrd said.

Any company, group or individual that donates the entire remaining amount might be able to name the park. The Solano Land Trust is offering park naming rights for $1 million, but given that only $750,000 remains to be raised, a discount is a possibility.

Other naming opportunities are available to large donors. For example, the Syar Foundation will have its name on the parking lot and trail staging area because it donated $75,000.

A group or individual donating $250,000 could name a knoll that is the highest point on the property. This oak-sprinkled hill commands views of Suisun Valley, Fairfield and the Central Valley to one direction and Green Valley to the other.

For $200,000, a donor could name a mesa that Byrd sees as a special place on the property.

“The mesa is beautiful, especially on top,” Byrd said. “It kind of opens into a meadow with oak trees and in the spring beautiful flowers and rocky outcroppings.”

Donors of smaller amounts can also obtain naming rights. They can name a picnic table for $5,000. They can get a spot on a donor recognition area near the parking lot for $500 or more.

It’s been a long fundraising journey for the Solano Land Trust.

The Solano County Board of Supervisors in 2008 approved a Rockville Trails Estates development with 360 homes. Opponents sued and last year a lawsuit settlement gave the Solano Land Trust the chance to buy the 1,500 acres for $13.5 million.

In June 2011, the Land Trust bought 330 acres for $3 million, with $2.5 million coming from a Fairfield open space assessment fund and $500,000 from a rural Green Valley open space assessment fund. That left 1,170 acres remaining to purchase for $10.5 million.

The biggest chunks of the money raised to date have come from grants, such as $2.8 million from the state Wildlife Conservation Board, $3.5 million from the state Coastal Conservancy and $1.9 million from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. These and other sources put the Land Trust within $1.5 million of it goal.

Securing that final $1.5 million has proven a challenge. The Solano Land Trust will again turn to the open space assessments paid by residents in the Green Valley area to secure $750,000. That leaves $750,000 to go.

At Tuesday’s county Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisor Mike Reagan asked Byrd how the Solano Land Trust plans to maintain Rockville Trails Estates after the purchase. It will have fences and other expenses, he said.

Byrd said the Land Trust plans to establish a $2 million endowment. It has raised $200,000 and has a $1 million pledge in open space assessments.

For now, the Solano Land Trust is focusing on the Aug. 15 deadline. Should it fail to buy the remaining 1,170 acres, the owners under the lawsuit settlement can build 185 homes there.

“I think some people have been waiting with their donations, to make sure it would really happen,” Byrd said. “They didn’t feel comfortable putting money in early in the game.”

But now, Byrd said, she thinks these donors will step forward.

“They want to feel that when the property has been protected, they have been part of something great,” she said.

Before the Land Trust could open Rockville Trails Estates to the public, it would have to complete a management plan and comply with state environmental requirements, Byrd said. But docent-led hikes could be offered starting in spring 2013, she said.

Go to http://www.solanolandtrust.org to find more information on the Solano Land Trust and its campaign to buy Rockville Trails Estates.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929, or beberling@dailyrepublic.net. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.

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