Two grinding rocks once used by the native Patwin people at Lynch Canyon Open Space in Solano County are perfectly situated. There are strong winds for winnowing the skin from the acorns, a small creek for flushing the bitter tannins, and plenty of flat areas for drying acorns in the sun. I imagine the Patwin women singing, telling stories, and gossiping while they worked.
The grinding rocks, along with the rest of Lynch Canyon (just off Interstate 80 between Vallejo and Fairfield), were destined to be a garbage dump, “the Shangri-la of dumps,” as Solano Land Trust board president Bob Berman once put it. But with the residents of nearby Cordelia taking the lead, voters rejected the dump. Now, ten years after the land trust purchased the land, the 1,039-acre ranch is open to the public.
On the day of the grand opening, I walked on the Reservoir Trail along Lynch Creek. I spooked a large bird, and hoped it was a golden eagle—a docent reported flushing one here recently. I wasn’t disappointed, however, when a female barn owl whooshed directly over my head.
For hikers accustomed to acres of open space in Marin and the East Bay, it may be hard to imagine what a coup this preserve is for Solano County. Although the county is replete with oak-studded hills, picturesque rangeland, and sprawling marshes, very little of it is publicly accessible. For over 20 years, the Tri-City and County Cooperative Planning Group has been working to protect 10,000 acres of open space between Vallejo, Fairfield, and Benicia. Lynch Canyon is part of that greater vision, called the Sky Valley Cordelia Hills Open Space. The 2005 acquisition of the King-Swett Ranches marked the halfway point toward that goal.
The movement to make more land accessible to Solano County residents seems to be gaining momentum. Solano County and the Solano Land Trust have formed a partnership at Lynch to open the land to the public. Speaking at the opening ceremony, Assemblywoman Lois Wolk said, “I hope that this is a first step toward an open space and park district in Solano County.” Solano is now the only county in the Bay Area that lacks one, following voter approval of a Napa district in November 2006. For Lynch Canyon directions and hours, go to www.solanolandtrust.org.