FAIRFIELD — Lynch Canyon’s “old homestead” has a new look.
The “old homestead” is the name for an area with foundations from a long-gone ranch house. It is located about a 1.5-mile hike into the 1,039-acre property in the hills between Fairfield and Vallejo, along the west end of the Middle Valley Trail.
Lynch Canyon, as usual, was closed to the public during the winter. Its owner, the Solano Land Trust, used the down time to do some work before the open space area reopened March 6.
The Solano Land Trust’s purchase of the 1,500-acre Rockville trails property near Suisun and Green valleys has gotten plenty of regional publicity. But Lynch Canyon remains a local space showplace, an old standby with hills that provide views of Suisun Marsh, Fairfield and the Central Valley in one direction and the Napa marshes and San Pablo Bay in the other.
Hikers making the trek to the old homestead will no longer see about an acre-and-a-half of Himalayan blackberries. Instead, they’ll see wetlands that previously were choked off by the plants. They’ll have to observe the scene through a fence designed to protect the fragile environment.
Blackberry plants provide berries that people love to eat, Solano Land Trust Project Manager Sue Wickham said. But the plants are non-native and the infestation posed a problem in Lynch Canyon.
“It just takes over any wet areas, wetland and creeks,” Wickham said. “It displaces the native vegetation to the extent that it becomes a monoculture. It’s the only thing there.”
The Solano Land Trust got money for the project from Walmart. Walmart is paying the Land Trust $400,000 to restore wetlands and creek habitat as state-required environmental mitigation associated with the store it is building in Suisun City.
An excavator removed the blackberry plants in November 2012, before the rainy season began in earnest. Volunteers helped plant more than 60 trees and 70 shrubs that are still in their infancy.
“We put willows and wetland grasses there and it’s really just popped,” Wickham said.
The wetlands are potential habitat for the red-legged frog. This type of frog is found in local coastal hills and is protected by the Endangered Species Act.
Water comes from a spring. The Land Trust also restored a spring box and moved livestock troughs away from the wetlands. Water from the spring goes by pipe to a tank that feeds the troughs.
“It’s one of the things that makes Lynch Canyon such a great grazing area,” Wickham said. “You go to some of those other areas, even the (nearby) King Ranch, they dry up. Lynch Canyon can support grazing year-round because it’s got great water.”
Also visible now that the blackberries are gone is a section of foundation that has no mortar.
The history of the old homestead remains somewhat of a mystery. Lynch Canyon get its name from the Lynch family, but they had a house at another location in lower canyon.
“We don’t know too much other than a few names of people who might have lived there,” Wickham said. “We know who owned the property, we don’t know if they lived there or not.”
The home was destroyed in a 1965 fire that swept into the canyon from Napa County.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.