Editor’s Note: Abe Smith, a senior at New Tech High School and an intern with the Napa Open Space District, is continuing Soaring to New Hikes, a column we began running last summer, exploring trails in the Napa Valley.
In my first article, I’ll be focusing on the trails affected by the October fires.
The Oat Hill Mine Trail was unaffected by the blaze, but was damaged. A Cal Fire bulldozer making a road for trucks to fight the fires in the hills, almost doubled the size of the trail for the first 1.3 miles. As a result the trail is not draining properly and will need work. I joined a small crew to work on the trail this past weekend, we worked to allow the newly expanded trail to drain more effectively.
The Cove of Mount Veeder got hit during the October blaze as well. The area was heavily forested and burned very intensely. Many structures were lost, as well as the majority of the Doug Firs. The cove will still be purchased by the Open Space District, and a major replanting project is being planned for the future.
Skyline Park was devastated. An estimated 600 acres of Skyline Park’s 850 acres burned up, and currently all of the parks hiking trails are closed due to concerns over safety of hikers. According to the park’s president, Andrew Brooks, reopening will require “a pretty significant amount of work.” To speed up the process of recovery, Skyline has hosted numerous volunteer events. Since the fires, the park has logged more than 900 volunteer hours and hosted six volunteer events. More than 300 trees have been cleared from the park as well.
On Dec. 2, a group of 49 volunteers (myself included) hiked out to the Manzanita trail and continued to chip away at the restoration of Skyline Park. Segments of the Manzanita Trail burned up, and many trees were covering the trail. The views however, remain unchanged, and much of the valley can be seen. The fire also revealed a relic left behind by the Spaniards. The flames uncovered rock walls built with Chinese labor in the 1800s to divide land, and they can now be seen running all through the park. On Dec. 9, a smaller crew went back to Manzanita to continue the work on the trail. The burned ground has already sprouted with new life. Work on retaining structures started, and the trail was cleaned up.
Much of Skyline is severely burned. The danger mostly lies with dead trees; even when the park reopens, trail users should be aware of falling trees. Skylinepark.org reported that the Buckeye Trail was cleared on three different occasions because new trees had fallen. As of now, the only part of Skyline that is open is the lower 50 acres, which contain an archery range, limited biking and hiking, a nine-hole disc golf course, horse arena, and the Martha Walker Native Plant Garden.
For the park to reopen, the park would need to cut down all trees that could be potential hazards. Many of Skyline’s trails need to be made safe before the park will take guests. If you want to be put on a volunteer list, you can call the Skyline kiosk between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. at (707) 252-0481, or contact Andrew Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org
The beauty of the area has not been lost despite the damage. After fires, wildflowers become more abundant because of the lack of growing competition. Slowly but surely, Skyline Park will be restored and will reopen sometime in the following months.
If you want to volunteer on Open Space District trails, shoot the Outreach Coordinator Chino Yip an email at email@example.com.