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Site of proposed housing development now preserved as open space

Solano Land Trust purchases first 330 acres of Rockville Trails; needs $10.5 million to protect remaining acres

Solano Land Trust and the local community are celebrating another victory this month upon the successful closing of escrow on the 330- acre, first phase purchase of Rockville Trails.

The parcel is located on the southwestern edge of the greater 1,500-acre Rockville Trails property between Green Valley and Suisun Valley in unincorporated Solano County. Funds for the $3 million purchase price of the 330 acres came from the City of Fairfield’s Green Valley Tax Assessment Fund ($2.5 million) and the Green Valley Open Space Tax Fund ($500,000).

"Years ago, these funds were established to protect natural areas and agricultural lands in the Green Valley area," said Fairfield Mayor Harry Price. "I am very pleased to support this project which is a perfect match for these funds that benefit the city of Fairfield."

The next step, said Solano Land Trust Executive Director Nicole Byrd, is to raise $10.5 million to purchase the remaining 1,170 acres. Towards that end, Solano Land Trust recently secured $3 million from the State Coastal Conservancy, leaving $7.5 million to raise before February 2012. The Coastal Conservancy also approved $100,000 for Solano Land Trust to develop a management plan once the full 1,500 acres have been purchased.
 
“We are thrilled to close on the first phase of this important property,” said Darrin Berardi, Solano Land Trust’s incoming board president. “We are grateful to the Coastal Conservancy for showing their early support and guidance, and are confident that other public and private agencies will follow suit. We also look forward to partnering with individual community members and community groups to discuss innovative ways to raise money to acquire this land that will benefit the Solano County community and beyond.”
 
Rockville Trails is on the leading edge of the 800,000-acre Blue Ridge-Berryessa Natural Area. The property has the potential to become a regional park with a trail system that connects existing and proposed Bay Area Ridge Trails, which will one day circle the bay.

Locally, trails from this project could connect to Lynch Canyon, the Napa River, and ultimately, the Carquinez Strait. The property was designated as highly suitable for conservation in the Upland Habitat Goals Project of the Bay Area Open Space Council, a project that identifies land with high biodiversity in need of protection.
 
This initial purchase will settle a lawsuit that the Green Valley Landowners Association and the Sierra Club brought against the property owner, White Wing Highlands Associates, as well as Solano County. In 2008, after the county approved a 370-unit residential subdivision for the area known as Rockville Trails Estates, the Green Valley Landowners Association and Sierra Club filed a suit on the basis of CEQA and other alleged violations, primarily based on their concern about water supply and wastewater management issues. Local landowners have fought the development of the property since 1970.
 
“This is a wonderful outcome for our community,” said Byrd. “A 30 year land use battle is finally over, and we are on our way to acquiring a beautiful, 1,500-acre natural park that is just minutes from downtown  Fairfield.”
 
“Those of us who live in Solano County can too easily take for granted the stunning beauty of our surrounding hills and open spaces,” said Supervisor Linda Seifert, who represents Green Valley on the Solano County Board of Supervisors. “We live in a garden of abundance and splendor that can steal the breath away from visitors, artists, and photographers. Once the land is developed or despoiled, this treasured public trust cannot be recaptured. Preservation is a must for our own time and for those who inhabit our future.”

The Board of Supervisors approved the settlement deal in May.
 
Solano Land Trust has until next February to raise the additional funds for the remaining 1,170 acres. If they don’t acquire the full purchase price of $10.5 million, White Wing Highlands Associates will retain ownership and the right to develop 185 homes on the site.
 
“With the help of the entire community, we are confident that we can meet the challenge presented by this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Byrd.
 
To make an individual contribution or to get involved in the campaign go to www.solanolandtrust.org.
 

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