Several large rock outcroppings on a ridge that rises above Moraga can be seen from miles around. Over the decades, people have painted so much graffiti on these rocks—team slogans and other messages—that at some point Moraga residents began calling the hill and surrounding land Painted Rock.
Last year, the John Muir Land Trust launched a campaign to buy Painted Rock and turn it into an open-space preserve. The owner of the land, Roger Lee Poynts, died in 2014. His conservation-minded widow has agreed to sell the land, once listed at $15 million, for $2 million, provided the trust can raise the money by May 31, 2019.
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The trust has already raised $1.8 million, which includes forthcoming matching funds, says Linus Eukel, executive director of JMLT. It’s relying on private donations for the acquisition. He sees the 84-acre parcel as anchoring a much larger preserve—505 acres situated between the new housing developments of Palos Colorados and Rancho Laguna II. This larger swath of land, once slated to become a private golf course, is now under conservation easements. It contains grasslands, springs, streams, and ponds, and it may harbor threatened species, such as the Alameda whipsnake and the California red-legged frog. “You have a full view of Mount Diablo, essentially 360 degrees—it’s extraordinary,” Eukel says. Previous generations fought to keep this open space for us, he points out, and the Painted Rock effort represents the current generation paying it forward by protecting it in perpetuity. “It’s basically the gateway to that 505 acres,” he says.
The trust plans to open the preserve to the public by spring of 2020. And it aims to create ADA-compliant trails at the top of the 935-foot hill in the Painted Rock parcel, where visitors can take in sweeping views of the East Bay shoreline, Suisun Bay, and surrounding landscape. As a nod to Painted Rock’s history, if the campaign to purchase the land is successful, people will be able to continue painting the rocks. “It’s public art,” Eukel says.