Upgraded Mitchell Canyon Visitor Center a community asset

Upgraded Mitchell Canyon Visitor Center a community asset
Mitchell Canyon Visitor Center view from the south. (Photo Illustration)

CLAYTON, CA (May 18, 2023) — The Mount Diablo Interpretive Association (MDIA) has kicked off fundraising for an ambitious project to revamp the Mitchell Canyon entrance to Mount Diablo.

With a price tag of $3 million, the Mitchell Canyon Visitor Center will create space for community gatherings, school field trips, education and connecting with nature.

The Mitchell Canyon Visitor Center currently stands as a small trailer that opens on weekends to greet hikers. To turn it into a sprawling public space, MDIA has set a goal to raise $1 million in 2023. The organization has announced a donor matching campaign, where every dollar donated up to $80,000 will be matched and doubled. MDIA plans to start the project in phases, breaking ground before they’ve raised all the money.

Accessibility and the environment in mind

As it stands now, wheelchairs cannot manage the terrain around the parking lot, bathrooms or the trailer. However, the new center will include complete ADA accessibility features.

“It’s just not a friendly place for them to come as a destination, and we think we can change that,” says Mike Brandy of MDIA.

Spanning 1,500 sq. ft. and including an outdoor plaza and indoor space, the center will have elements of a museum. MDIA says it will host “in-depth interpretive displays for all visitors on the natural and cultural world of this 22,000-acre ‘island in the sky’ state park.”

Meg Hanna says the new facility has climate sustainability in mind. “The structure is going to be taking advantage of natural climate control,” says the Clayton resident long aware of the project.

Natural light

The center will use a combination of natural light and natural airflow to keep the indoor space comfortable. “They are designing everything (so) it becomes a part of keeping the environment and the climate safe,” Hanna adds.

The other major purpose of the revamped visitor center is to create an always-open gathering spot. According to Brandy, the current center attracts hikers and bikers from all over the East Bay who lack a place to meet up before taking on the mountain. “When they’re trying to meet up, the meet-up place that everyone gathers is in the middle of the parking lot,” he notes.

Clayton City Councilmember Kim Trupiano was surprised to learn that 30,000-40,000 people come through that entrance yearly. “(Mitchell Canyon) is sort of our entrance to Mount Diablo State Park,” she says.

The Clayton council heard a presentation on the plans at the April 18 meeting. The city does not have plans to support the project monetarily. However, multiple councilmembers have expressed that they are in favor of the overhaul.

Educational opportunities

Upgraded Mitchell Canyon Visitor Center a community asset
The Mount Diablo Interpretive Association envisions educational displays inside the Mitchell Canyon Visitor Center. (Photo Illustration)

One of the major functions of the visitor center will be expanded educational offerings. Councilmember Holly Tillman, who has school-aged children, sees a need for the new center and an educational outpost.

Tillman is glad future generations will be able to use the visitor center for field trips. “Just knowing that they have that natural resource in their backyard, that they can actually sit in the classroom and learn about it while onsite – I think it’s great.”

Brandy believes that the new center could lead to partnerships with schools. He said they could handle two classes of kids at one time in the indoor facility alone.

Hanna echoes Tillman and Brandy’s educational sentiments. “I think what’s important is the education of those who are using the trails around how to really take a look at the beauty of nature and the ecosystem that is created by Mount Diablo.”

For more information, visit www.mdia.org.

Vince Martellacci
Vince Martellacci

Vince Martellacci is a somewhat new resident of Clayton who loves to spend time in the town center and in Concord. He represents musicians across the Bay Area in the media when he’s not writing. Contact him at vince@4amindiepublicity.com.