A path for all to tread

Building the All-People’s trail 
By Samuel James Adams

Before the trucks and tractors began to rumble into Patwino Worrtla Kodoi Dihi Open Space Park, the design team took a walk in the company of many imagined feet, canes, wheelchairs, walkers, and strollers. The design team was planning out how that path would best circulate visitors through a route that displays the scope and grandeur of a property whose attractions run small and large.

“On an intimate scale, the park is a beautiful place,” Senior Project Manager Hilary Dustin says. “There are ancient oak trees and rare wildflowers. But there are some really nice vistas from the property over Suisun Valley and Suisun Bay.”

The team’s designs draw on feedback from an All-Access Advisory Committee. Wanda Williams served on the committee and provided feedback. “I am thankful for all the work done to save spaces for all,” Wanda says. “And even more so for the commitment and dedication to make sure that there is disability inclusion, so that anyone of any ability can enjoy these spaces.”

Now construction is underway to make the half-mile accessible loop trail a reality, and the land you’ve protected from development will soon be a place that everyone can enjoy.

To serve its purpose, the All People’s Trail must be a destination as well as a route. Some people might begin a long hike from it, and others may only travel a fraction of it before resting at a bench. And as the team follows little flags (called “whiskers”) that mark the route, they find questions at every turn.

Is the giant blue oak at the switchback for gazing at or sitting under? Should the picnic tables face fields where kids can play or regard wide-opened vistas? Where is the best place for sight-impaired visitors to sit and smell the wildflowers and hear the birdsong?

As they ponder questions like these, John Aranson and Barth Campbell draw on nearly forty years of collaboration; the men graduated from the same high school in Novato.

“John was the better student,” Barth says.

“But he made more money,” says John.

John has served as trail consultant at Skyline Park, the Bay Area Ridge Trail, and on the trails and bridges of Patwino Worrtla Kodoi Dihi. Barth founded Campbell Grading, which completed the ADA upgrade at Rush Ranch, and has provided surfacing around California, including 2.5 miles of coastal trails at Crissy Field.

The path is composed of Park Tread. This ADA-approved permeable surfacing material, a proprietary creation of Barth Campbell’s, is sourced from virgin quarry excavations in eastern Sonoma County and uses a plant-based binding agent. The hills that the follows are fairly gentle, but Park Tread can handle a steeper grade than asphalt, as a job at the Zen Center in Muir Woods required.

Barth estimates between 800 and 900 yards of material will be needed for completion—around fifty to sixty truckloads. 

“All other surfaces crack or contract in summer or winter,” says Barth. His material passed the snow test in Yosemite National Park. Even sheeting rains don’t wash it out.

Like the wideness of the path, the consistent surfacing makes a great difference for wheelchairs, unsteady gaits, and people with limited vision.

In order to offer visitors an ideal experience, the All People’s Path will be closed to bicyclists and horses, who will use marked bypass trails. The path will also feature an array of 12 by 8 palapa-style shade structures and picnic tables with ride-up access for wheelchairs.  And while the park can feel worlds away from the bustle of the Bay Area, the path will connect easily to trails that run through the park and beyond it into the Ridge Trail’s Expansive loop system.

Since consulting on the project with the All-Access Advisory Committee, Wanda Williams has officially joined Solano Land Trust as a Project Manager-Public Access. We are greatly excited, and so is she. For her, the All People’s trail has a deep personal resonance.

“It’s an opportunity give back to Solano Land Trust what the Land Trust gave to my children,” Wanda says. “Having those opportunities to be out on Rush Ranch, they enjoyed those moments, those picnics, those times with Access Adventure. It helped give the opportunity for a better quality of life. Though my sons may be no longer be alive—both were physically disabled because of muscular dystrophy—to me this is part of their legacy too. I was out there on a tour of the space, I just thought about how my children are soaring above. I can’t wait until I see the first smile of someone taking advantage of the trails.”

The All-People’s Trail is part of a systemic effort to bring the park into the future. A private individual’s $500,000 donation is funding a portion of this trail and over ten miles of upgrades and new paths. A generous 1.25-million-dollar grant from the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation is funding the staging area, trail construction, road rehabilitation, and interpretive signage that will explore the land’s geology, history, and cultural significance. And a Coastal Conservancy grant will fund staging area amenities—restrooms with solar-powered lights, entry sign, and pay stations. (The livestock who graze the park will enjoy new benefits as well, including a solar-powered pump system for their troughs.)

But none of this could have happened if supporters hadn’t acted to conserve beautiful open land in your community. Because you cared, visitors of all ages and abilities will find a welcoming place no matter where they are on life’s journey.