By Shelly Provost
Have you ever been walking through El Cerrito, seen an interesting trail winding off into the distance, and wondered where it went and who created it? Chances are that Dave Weinstein, Founder of El Cerrito Trail Trekkers, had something to do with it. Dave, a longtime resident of El Cerrito, liked to take walks through the town and explore new paths. He often could see interesting areas but there was no way to get to them. In 2009 Dave started the El Cerrito Trail Trekkers. As its membership grew, the Trekkers developed into a nonprofit group dedicated to preserve, improve and extend the city’s network of public pathways, stairs, trails and greenways for pedestrian and bicycle use.
Dave says “A city needs things in it that are unique, or at least unusual, and appealing. The Hillside Natural Area is such a beautiful, special place. And the other trails and stairways, it is just special to have walkways where you can walk on mysterious little paths.”
The Trekkers advocate for increased public open space, and sponsor activities that involve trails and open space, including hikes, festivals, and other educational events.
As a testament to the Trekkers determination, they teamed with the city of El Cerrito and other neighborhood groups to purchase an eight-acre piece of land, known as the Madera Property. This parcel forms a critical bridge between the North and South Hillside Nature Area and is now forever protected against development.
What has to be one of the most fun parts of being a Trail Trekker is the wonderful hikes they go on. Alina Constantinescu led a group of Trekkers for a one-hour hike through the Albany Hill area. Alina, an experienced hiking guide, is very knowledgeable about the area. As the hike progressed, she pointed out native and non-native plants, and the grinding holes left by the Ohlone tribes who once lived there. As if on cue, as Alina explained how this area is on the path of the Monarch butterfly migration, a Monarch landed on the hat of Trekker Amy Bennet. As we continued our walk we came upon a rope swing, where the Trekkers swung out towards a panoramic view of the bay. A little farther down the trail we found a giant twenty-foot steel cross, a sign from the more recent past. This hike was not just a walk on bucolic trails but also a chance to get to know the local neighborhood, giving one the feeling of exploring rather than just following a path. Alina led us down a steep stairway onto a small street lined with houses with unique architecture and quirky adornments and strategically ended the hike at the Off the Grid Trucks food court, where the hikers refreshed themselves with some unique eats and conversation.
What good would all the trails be if people didn’t know about them? Mollie Hazen, communications director, is responsible for getting the word out about the Trail Trekkers. They have Earth day work parties, member appreciation celebrations and their biggest event of the year, in May, the Annual El Cerrito Hillside Festival.
Mollie says “I believe that participating with the Trail Trekkers is really about people’s instinctive love for nature and the out of doors, exploring urban trails and saving precious open space. And we welcome those like-minded neighbors to discover the beauty of El Cerrito’s wildlife paths and participate with one another in our hikes and related social membership activities. It’s fun, educational and great exercise, too! “
Dave Weinstein invites you for a vigorous, and at times steep stroll to see some of El Cerrito’s unusual, largest and most beautiful homes while enjoying some of the city’s hidden pathways. Saturday, June 16, 1 to 3 p.m. Meet at the Northwest corner of Moeser Lane and Shevlin Drive.
If you would like to learn more about the El Cerrito Trail Trekkers or join them on their next hike, visit their website at: ectrailtrekkers.org.