This Blog is a guest blog by Tamra Peters of Resilient Neighborhoods. It’s her story of helping to save a tract of woodlands in her neighborhood.
Bill and I have lived across the street for 15 years, and fallen in love with this land and trail. Nature has always been a major part of my life, a place where I reconnect with who I am.
As a kid my friends and I would spend hours playing in the woods and fields of Arlington County, VA. As I grew, so did the population. I watched as the woods were bulldozed and homes and streets put in. By the time I left home, I had to drive to be in nature.
My love of nature landed me my first job at the Nature Conservancy in 1970, just two months after the first Earth Day. I’ve continued working for the environment for 45 years now and currently volunteer full-time running a climate change program I created called Resilient Neighborhoods that helps people lower their carbon footprint.
So putting up the funds to buy the land was a big decision, but not a hard one. I felt it was one of the most significant things I could do in my life. As I experienced in my childhood, once land is developed; it’s gone forever. I knew what a loss it would be for us and for everyone in the neighborhood now and in the future.
So how did all of this happen? Here’s a quick sketch. Others will fill in the details. In February 2010, we were shocked to see a ‘for sale’ sign across the street. We contacted Hugo Landecker and MOST (Marin Open Space Trust). Hugo rounded up some neighbors. We found old maps showing the stagecoach road and researched to see if the City might still own a trail easement. We even brought then City Council members Mark Levine and Damon Connolly to walk the trail with us. We worked on the project for 11 months, then the property was taken off the market.
Six years passed. Then last June, as Bill and I started our daily walk, a man stepped out of his BMW and asked us about the land. We inquired why he was asking and he said, “I’m thinking of buying it.” Our hearts sunk. He said the land had been on the market for months, but the owner had just substantially reduced the price. We raced back home and found the asking price was almost half of what it had been. We called MOST, they contacted the realtor, and five days later we had an accepted offer, beating out the other prospective buyers!
But our initial excitement sank when we learned that the City had an unwritten policy not to accept gifts of land. That’s when we learned that “it takes a village” to save land.
So Hugo, San Rafael Heritage and GPNA all got involved. We posted a petition at the foot of the trail and got 175 signatures. I’ll let others share their part of how the neighborhood pulled together to convince City Hall—with the Mayor’s leadership—that this land should remain open forever.