More than 30 years ago, local open space advocates came up with a vision for a vast trail network that would connect all the ridges around the San Francisco Bay from Sonoma to Santa Clara Counties, into one continuous 550-mile long trail. Over the following decades, this momentous vision that came to be known as the Bay Area Ridge Trail sprang to life, as trail segments managed by various parks and open space districts were added to the map. The trail is now 70% complete with more than 380 miles of scenic ridge-top trails, overlooking every corner of the Bay.
But over the years there’s been one crucial element missing - linkages to the Bay Area’s major transit providers, including BART.
On June 13th, the Ridge Trail project reached a key milestone with the opening of the new Berryessa BART Station in North San Jose. This long-anticipated transit project includes a new 0.7-mile trail extension, linking the new BART station to the existing Penitencia Creek Trail. This is the first time in the Ridge Trail’s history that there is a direct trail connection linking BART stations in the urban valley up to Ridge Trail segments in the surrounding hills. The project closes a critical transit-to-trail gap in the Ridge Trail plan and connects BART for the first time with the City of San José Trail Network, via Penintencia Creek and Alum Rock Parks, and the Open Space Authority’s Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve.
With support from the Open Space Authority’s Urban Grant Program and other funders, the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council has created a series of physical infrastructure and programs to orient arriving BART passengers to the open space near the station. These include:
- Wayfinding signs and interpretive panels outside of the station, leading people to local parks, preserves, and the Ridge Trail
- Brochures and community outreach including virtual or live (when public events are back) guided excursions to introduce people to the Ridge Trail.
Trail advocates know that to make parks available to everyone in the community you need to make them easy to get to, whether visitors arrive by bus, train, or car.
“This new trail connection offers the opportunity for people from all backgrounds to access the Ridge Trail and all the wonderful parks and open space they may not even know are nearby,” said Liz Westbrook, Trail Program Director, Bay Area Ridge Trail Council. “From the Berryessa platform, you get a 360-degree view of the ridgeline, including Mount Umunhum, Monument Peak, Sierra Vista, and Mount Hamilton. Because this BART connection now exists, people from all around the Bay Area can experience those natural spaces without getting into a car.”
As the BART station estimates daily ridership of 12,000 people per day, and the densely populated area has nearly 30,000 residents within a ½ mile radius, this project has the potential to connect tens of thousands of new visitors to our existing local parks and open space.
The extension opens up the potential for new recreation opportunities like multi-day hikes, as the trail is connected through Ed Levin and Joseph Grant County Parks and East Bay parks further north. In the meantime, check out the Ridge Trail’s recommended adventures including an easy and flat urban park sampler and longer and more challenging routes that take you up into Alum Rock Park and Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve.
Join the Bay Area Ridge Trail to celebrate this milestone!
On Thursday, July 9th at 12:30 pm, the Bay Area Ridge Trail will host a Virtual Dedication of the new trail and celebration of this new open space access point. The organization will give a presentation about the new trail section and host a discussion with project partners before cutting the virtual ribbon! Register for the event and you’ll get the Zoom event link a few days before the event.