VALLEJO — Go to Glen Cove Waterfront Park in Vallejo. There, with the Carquinez Strait lapping the shores and the C&H sugar plant visible in the distance, starts the Great California Delta Trail.
It begins near the parking lot and goes along gravel paths for a short distance. A map at the park shows the trail eventually continuing eastward.
Call it a humble start.
Someday, the Great California Delta Trail is to go all over the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and through five counties, including Solano. But only the short segment at Glen Cove and a 13-mile-long segment from Sacramento’s Discovery Park along the Sacramento River near Sacramento’s Pocket neighborhood to Freeport exist.
Richard Mugg recently hiked on trails through hills near the Glen Cove Waterfront Park. He and another hiker discussed whether Vallejo is near enough to the Delta to warrant having a segment of the Great California Delta Trail.
“The Carquinez Strait is the beginning of the Delta,” Mugg said, though he didn’t necessarily seem convinced.
Another hiker said anglers would not consider the Carquinez Strait area as part of the Delta.
Certainly Vallejo is not in the legal Delta as defined in state law, not even close. The Delta doesn’t begin until across the county near the tiny town of Collinsville at the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers.
Both men wondered how the small segment of Vallejo trail would reach the Delta proper. How, they asked, would it pass through the marshlands and waterways?
“You’re going to need a Delta boat to get on the Delta trail,” Mugg said.
Tom Torlakson is the father of the Great California Delta Trail, which at this point is far more of a concept than a reality. He sponsored state legislation in 2006 that calls for the Delta Protection Commission to plan for a “recreation corridor” through the five Delta counties, with routes for bicycling and hiking and connection with other trails, parks and mass transit.
Torlakson now serves as state Superintendent of Public Instruction and appeared at a Solano County event earlier this year. He took time out to talk about the trail.
“The Delta is one of the most marvelous natural resources anywhere on the planet Earth,” Torlakson said. “I believe people need to re-create themselves. That’s why they call it recreation.”
Some 40 miles as the crow flies from Glen Cove Waterfront Park is Ryer Island in eastern Solano County. This is the prime Delta, an island created by Cache, Miner and Steamboat sloughs that can be reached by either ferry or bridge. Much of the island is farmed and homes are few.
Nicole Suard runs Snug Harbor resort there, with a marina, RV spaces and waterfront rental cabins. She’d like to see the Great California Delta Trail pass along the island.
Suard said she and her husband are fans of another trail, the San Francisco Bay Trail that is supposed to be a 500-mile shoreline trail around the region’s bays. The Suards have hiked the segment near Martinez.
The Great California Delta Trail in essence extends the concept to the Delta. In fact, the segment in Glen Cove Waterfront Park is also part of the Bay Trail.
Suard said she can envision a Delta trail segment on Ryer Island making use of the existing, rural, two-lane roads.
“Ryer Island is a good target area because there’s not as much traffic as on some of the main roads,” Suard said. “Also, it’s kind of an easy one. They don’t have to build any new trails.”
There’s precedence. Suard noted an 1890 bicycle map of the Delta included Ryer Island.
The Delta Protection Commission has been planning the Great California Delta Trail with $105,000 from the Coastal Conservancy, $40,000 from Contra Costa County and 320 hours of in-kind service from the National Parks Service Rivers Trails conservation assistance program, commission Associate Environmental Planner Alex Westhoff said.
One result is the 108-page “blueprint report” for Contra Costa and Solano counties. It shows maps of existing trails and bike routes in Solano County, but has no proposals for a Delta trail route.
A continuous trail from Vallejo through Solano County into the Delta would at some points have to pass over private land, unless it merely followed existing roads.
“We’re very, very sensitive to private property right issues and concerns from the ag community,” Westhoff said. “That’s why we’re investigating other tools such as water trails, to ensure private property rights are not impacted by the Delta trail.”
In other words, Mugg and his fellow hiker were right – people trying to complete the Great California Delta Trail might have to bring a boat with them.
The next step for the Great California Delta Trail is a Delta Protection Commission study for Sacramento, San Joaquin and Yolo counties. Next would come a Delta trail master plan. Then an alignment for the Great California Delta Trail could start to emerge.
“It’s going to be looking at where there are existing trails in and around the Delta,” Westhoff said.
Putting the Great California Delta Trail together could take decades. For example, the San Francisco Bay Trail was authorized by state legislation in 1987. About 330 miles of the planned 500 miles have been completed.
If the Great California Delta Trail follows suit, its creation could last a generation and beyond. But the trail on paper at least should start taking shape for Solano County and the other Delta counties in coming years.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.