Parks and open space leaders in American Canyon have recommended that Clarke Ranch be transformed into a multi-use recreational area featuring outdoor activities as well as homes for rescued wildlife, therapy animals and 4-H livestock.
The Clarke Ranch master plan, approved last week by both the Parks and Community Services Commission and the Open Space Advisory Committee, will go before the City Council for a vote on Oct. 17.
The ambitious plan outlines many different uses for the undeveloped, 24-acre parcel located near the wetlands that may require many years plus millions of dollars to realize.
But parks officials saw Clarke Ranch as a one-of-a-kind opportunity for American Canyon to provide outdoor and recreational uses not currently available to the city. They also felt compelled to put as many ideas as possible into a master plan that was drafted over the course of this year.
“We’ve shoe-horned a lot into this space,” said Nance Matson, chair of the Open Space Advisory Committee at a joint meeting with the Parks and Community Services Commission on Sept. 25.
If the master plan’s vision comes to life, Clarke Ranch will someday feature:
— Environmental and Community Center Building for community events and to inform visitors about the wetlands and local wildlife. It could also include a coffee/snack shop and a place to rent bicycles or kayaks.
— Central gathering area for outdoor concerts and events.
— Picnic areas.
— Nature-based play area for kids.
— Bicycle skills course for all ages, but particularly for teens and youth to provide them with an outdoor recreational option.
— Elevated boardwalk that takes visitors through wetlands and eucalyptus groves.
— A dog park.
— Demonstration gardens and an “outdoor classroom.”
— A permanent home for the Napa Wildlife Rescue and a new rehabilitation center for animals and birds.
— Facilities for SpiritHorse Riding Center and American Canyon 4-H.
Clarke Ranch currently is home to numerous eucalyptus trees, some of which may have to be cut down as part of the development.
Parks and Recreation Director Creighton Wright said the city would consult an arborist to identify sick or dying trees that should come down.
Consultant Jeff Ferber, who helped craft the master plan, pointed out that eucalyptus trees are not native to the area, and that the city could consider replacing the trees with native species, such as willow or oak trees.
Ferber also acknowledged that local residents have come to identify the towering eucalyptus with Clarke Ranch after being there for so long.
Parks commissioners and open space advocates said the city should retain some of the eucalyptus.
The trees offer “a unique atmosphere” of walking into a forest, said Commissioner Janelle Sellick. “I know they’re not native, but it is a special unique part of our community.”
Sellick also endorsed the addition of a bike skills course, which she said would not be a BMX track, but rather “a gentle introduction to outdoor trail cycling.”
“Most kids go home after school and sit in front of their technologies or TVs,” said Sellick, “and something like this will encourage kids to get outside and want to go outside.”
Sellick also serves as president of the American Canyon Community and Parks Foundation, which has promised to donate $50,000 for the creation of Clarke Ranch’s demonstration gardens, outdoor classroom, and outdoor exercise stations and trails that would wrap around the existing wetlands viewing area on the south side of Eucalyptus Drive.
These portions of Clarke Ranch are expected to cost $500,000 to $600,000.
The City Council has agreed to match the foundation’s $50,000, giving the project at least $100,000 to start with.