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Napa Open Space District seeks $1.2 million grant for Suscol Headwaters

A $1.17 million grant, if it can be obtained, would unlock a major, new hiking park near the cities of Napa and American Canyon to convenient public use.

Suscol Headwaters Park is 709 acres in hills with views of the Napa River, a distant Carneros and the Napa-Sonoma marshes stretching on to the greater Bay Area. It opened in 2020.

However, Soscol Headwaters has no entrance of its own. Instead, hikers and bikers wanting to reach the park must go to adjacent Skyline Wilderness Park and traverse about four miles — eight miles round trip — just to set foot within it.

That's might be a daunting journey for a family with young children or someone who isn't in prime hiking shape. For them, Suscol Headwaters might as well not exist.

That hoped-for Proposition 68 grant would give the park an entrance of its own. The district could build a parking lot with about 25 stalls and a trail head near North Kelly Road, as well trails.

The Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District owns Suscol Headwaters. If the district obtains the grant, it could open the more direct entrance by 2025.

If not, those hikers and bikers who want to experience Suscol Headwaters without that trek from Skyline will have to keep waiting.

“We’re going to get that park open no matter what,” Open Space District General Manager Chris Cahill said. “But with the current funding climate, we need grant money to do it.”

The Open Space District Board of Directors on Monday approved related documents needed to apply for the grant.

For the entire state, $23 million is available for this round of Proposition 68 grants and various communities will compete for the money. The California Department of Parks and Recreation is to award grants in late spring or early summer.

To build the parking lot and trailhead, the Open Space District plans to lease an easement on Napa Sanitation District property. NapaSan has recycled water spray fields near North Kelly Road and Highway 12 at the entrance to Jameson Canyon.

Cahill said an appraisal for the easement price has yet to be done. In addition, the Open Space District must obtain a use permit from Napa County before opening a Suscol Headwaters direct entrance.

Suscol Headwaters in the mid-1990s was proposed for a very different fate than a park. A Texas company proposed to build more about 1,700 homes in these hills. Voters under the Measure P land control measure rejected the idea.

The Open Space District bought Suscol Headwaters in two phases: part in 2015 and the remainder in 2017.

In 2017, the Napa Valley Register toured the property with Cahill and then-Open Space District General Manager John Woodbury. The climb up the hills revealed a panoramic view of the Bay Area stretching from Mount Diablo to Mount Tamalpais to Mount St. Helena.

On the ridge is knob-like feature. That site has views not only of the Bay Area, but also the Central Valley, with the Sierra Nevadas visible on a clear day.

“You get to the top and the world opens up to you,” Cahill said.

He borrowed a phrase from the hiking world and called this view the “scenic climax.” In other words, it’s the big payoff for the uphill climb.

“It seems to me this is the type of place people will want to come to from throughout the Bay Area,” Cahill said.

Here's what the American Canyon Community and Parks Foundation is up to, including plans for a $1 million eco-center.

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.

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