Funds needed urgently to protect Clayton’s Smith Canyon

Funds needed urgently to protect Clayton’s Smith Canyon

Funds needed urgently to protect Clayton’s Smith Canyon
If Save Mount Diablo completes the purchase, Smith Canyon could be a recreational gateway to Curry Canyon from Morgan Territory Road. (Scott Hein photo)

Save Mount Diablo (SMD) has successfully entered into a purchase agreement to buy and protect the beautiful and strategic 28.73-acre Smith Canyon for $650,000.

The property east of Clayton could become a recreational gateway to Curry Canyon from Morgan Territory Road.

The non-profit land conservation organization is working quickly to raise funds because the purchase must be completed in 28 days, SMD said in a March 18 announcement.

It is one of several properties SMD hopes to protect with the final $2 million in fundraising of its $15 million Forever Wild Capital Campaign.

Land with great potential

Protection of Smith Canyon will provide legal and practical access from a public road to SMD’s conserved 1,080.53-acre Curry Canyon Ranch. Narrow Curry Canyon and Curry Canyon Road have been contemplated as an eastside entrance to Mount Diablo for more than 110 years, but complicated legal issues have made public access difficult. Smith Canyon would provide a second, alternate access route into Curry Canyon with clear legal access rights.

“The Smith Canyon property is an incredible recreational gateway to the magical Curry Canyon on the east side of Mount Diablo,” said Ted Clement, SMD’s executive director. “But what also strikes me about the property is that it has great potential as a beautiful stand-alone preserve.

“You can imagine groups of school children experiencing it, working with volunteers to replant trees to restore former building pads, taking care of the land together and hiking its trails up to the stunning view spots where they can sit to appreciate and connect with nature,” he added. “I didn’t expect the beautiful vistas of North Peak and Mount Diablo that we discovered on the high points of the land.”

“How often do you get to save an entire canyon,” noted Seth Adams, SMD’s land conservation director. “Smith Canyon is lovely. It’s one main, lushly wooded stream canyon with several smaller drainages rising to ridges on either side and toward a small peak on our neighboring Curry Canyon Ranch.”

Saving it from development

Adams said several subdivisions had been approved on the property but were never completed. “The large building pads show how threatened it has been,” he said. “Its purchase would be another piece in our Curry Canyon puzzle and end that threat forever.”

In addition to its value for recreational and other access, Smith Canyon is important from a conservation perspective. The land has blue oak woodland and a live oak-bay riparian corridor. California red-legged frog and Alameda whipsnake are special status species likely to be present on the property.

Further, the land is contiguous with SMD’s conserved Curry Canyon Ranch. Its protection will add to the important corridor of conserved lands in the Mount Diablo area, which is essential for wildlife and water resources. The land also affords beautiful scenic vistas to passersby on the public Morgan Territory Road.

The timing is critical, said Karen Ferriere, SMD’s development director. “We’re looking for angels and talking to everyone we can.”

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