Suscol Headwaters Park near the city of Napa is open as of Thursday, though people at least initially will have a bit of a hike to reach it and its sweeping, south county views.
A use permit issued by the county Planning Commission on Wednesday allows the park to open, Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District General Manager John Woodbury said. The one chore is for the district to remove the “keep out” signs.
The 709-acre park is to someday have more than seven miles of trails. It is to someday have a parking lot and front entrance from the Highway 12/Jameson Canyon area for easy access.
But that’s in the future. For now, people can take existing trails from Skyline Wilderness Park to a section of the new park that has a lookout point. The journey is about 4 miles from the Skyline parking lot, making for an 8-mile round trip.
“That’s the spectacular destination,” Woodbury said on Wednesday. “That’s what people will want to do. And it’s very clearly marked.”
Suscol Headwaters vista points are on a ridge overlooking a section of the Napa River south of the city of Napa. They offer distance views of Mount Tamalpais, Mount St. Helena and, on a clear day, downtown San Francisco. One spot also offers views of the Central Valley.
“It’s just a quiet, breezy, special place that’s really unique in the county,” Open Space District Planner Kyra Purvis said.
An 8-mile round trip might be a ways for some hikers, Woodbury acknowledged. But for people on a mountain bike or horse, it’s not much of a distance, he said.
Usually, the Bay Area Ridge Trail segment from Skyline Park to Suscol Headwaters would be closed at this time of year because of mud, Woodbury said. But a bone-dry February has the trail open.
Plans call for a Buckaroo Trail, Zane Trail, Little Bend Trail, Perdida Trail, Chance the Cowboy Trail and Suscol Ridge Trail. For now, Suscol Headwaters is still evolving.
“There are some ranch roads you could walk around,” Woodbury said. “You could spend a lot of time there. It won’t be as nice as if you were on a trail.”
The Open Space District is looking at options for a direct entrance to the park that would allow users to avoid the hike from Skyline. Woodbury said that is at least a year away, maybe two years.
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A new park, like a new winery, needs a Napa County use permit. The Planning Commission approved the Suscol Headwaters permit unanimously and quickly.
Neighbor Cindy Fagundes wants to make certain park users stay on park property. She asked that permanent signs discouraging trespassing be put up.
“My main concern is how to keep people out of our property,” she said. “Because we’ve already had people toss their bikes over our fences and end up in Green Valley.”
Open Space District Deputy General Manager Chris Cahill said metal signs will be put up on park boundary fences. Also, trails will be designed to steer people to the middle of the park.
“Our idea is that if you build good enough trails that are really appealing to people, with good vistas, that are fun to hike on, to ride a mountain bike on, they’re going to stay there instead of trying to go cross country to find other things,” he said.
He addressed another concern voiced by Fagundes about fire danger. The park will be closed during high-risk fire weather, Cahill said.
Planning Commissioner Andrew Mazotti said Suscol Headwaters adds to the diversity of what people can do in Napa County.
“I love to eat and drink, but I also like to get out and exercise,” he said.
Other commissioners were also enthusiastic about Suscol Headwaters. Commissioner Jeri Hansen said that folks are more likely to preserve nature if they get out into it.
“This is another 709-acre opportunity to do just that,” she said.
The Open Space District bought Suscol Headwaters for $3.5 million in two phases: one phase in 2015 and the other in 2017.
“It’s in southern Napa, where the majority of county residents live,” Purvis said. “It’s close to the city of Napa and American Canyon.”
The Open Space District also runs Moore Creek Park near Lake Hennessey and Bothe-Napa Valley State Park near St. Helena and Calistoga. Skyline Park isn’t run by the district, but rather by a nonprofit group on land leased by Napa County from the state.
You can reach Barry Eberling at 256-2253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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