Save Mount Diablo continues land conservation efforts, bringing hope amid pandemic

Save Mount Diablo continues land conservation efforts, bringing hope amid pandemic
During the pandemic, Mt. Diablo has been a popular place to get out of the house and get exercise and fresh air while keeping socially distant. (Pete Cruz photo)

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY—In a year broken by the COVID-19 pandemic, Save Mount Diablo (SMD) found ways to advance its land conservation efforts.

In March of 2020, along with countless businesses and organizations, SMD was forced to adapt its efforts with the world stuck inside.

“We had to totally change the way that we do things in order to connect with people,” SMD executive director Ted Clement told the Pioneer. “Our team really delivered.”

In his annual State of the Mountain address in January, Clement highlighted his team’s efforts to continue the work virtually and bring some hope to the surrounding communities. He said the change in approach shouldn’t be taken for granted.

“Whether it be going to all-virtual staff meetings or to changing up our educational offerings, it was a massive transition.”

Here is some of SMD’s work that Clement shared in the annual address.

Lighting the beacon

The Mt. Diablo Beacon (Stephen Joseph photo)

Just before Easter 2020, a couple of SMD supporters reached out to the staff and asked if the Mount Diablo beacon could be turned on the night of Easter Sunday to give some hope during the pandemic. The SMD team loved the idea and followed through with the request.

After a great number of residents appreciated the gesture, Clement wanted to make sure the beacon continued to shine every Sunday during the pandemic.

“I thought it was a really powerful idea,” Clement said. “Sunday is such a sacred day for so many people, and I thought it would be really cool if we could let it shine until Monday morning, so we could shine the light through the darkness.”

Once the lighting became a weekly occurrence, SMD received a note from local nurse Alyce O’Shea thanking them for continuing their efforts.

“My colleagues and I look forward to (the lighting), and we text each other every Sunday that ‘The beacon is up,’ ” O’Shea wrote. “We plan on having a party when it doesn’t have to be lit any longer.”

The lighting of the beacon has become a coordinated team effort for Clement, John Gallagher and Dick Heron.

Measures T and Y

Perhaps two of SMD’s biggest successes came in its 2020 campaign efforts in Danville and Antioch.

SMD helped lead the campaign to support Measure Y in Danville. With the measure passing, 93 percent of the 410-acre Magee Preserve property will be protected for public benefit.

“We are now working with our good partners like East Bay Regional Park District, the town of Danville and Davidon on the important and extensive public trails that will be part of this newly conserved land,” Clement said.

In Antioch, SMD helped secure a landslide win on Measure T, which allows the public to manage growth through elections in the Sand Creek Focus Area.

Located next to the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, it’s the largest continuous stretch of untouched land in Antioch.

Even though both measures ended favorably, SMD’s campaign efforts were not the same.

“In the past, we set ourselves up in a high-trafficked area, like a supermarket, and talked to people and, unfortunately, we couldn’t do that,” Clement noted.

In order to still get their message out, Clement said the team walked door-to-door, left informational brochures on porches and ran social media campaigns.

Continuing the message

In a year where stay-at-home orders were fluctuating, Clement said it was essential to broadcast SMD’s message about the importance of nature.

“The biggest environmental threat is the lack of meaningful relationships between people and nature,” Clement said.

With many businesses closed but parks remaining open, Clement is hopeful that more people will seek the outdoors and its natural beauty.

“Together, we were a bright light in 2020 for our foundational natural world and each other, even amidst some very dark days,” Clement said. “Thus, we go into this New Year with the understanding and confidence that together we can continue to be a bright light for the Diablo wildlands and our communities.”

For more information, visit the Save Mount Diablo website.