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Home Parks and Recreation Parks John Marsh/Cowell Public Workshop Summary
 John Marsh/Cowell Public Workshop Summary

Visioning & Scoping Meeting
Wednesday May 17, 2006
City of Brentwood Community Center
730 Third Street, Brentwood, CA 95413
6:00 – 9:00 PM
Issue Date: June 1, 2006

Agency Representatives

California State Parks
Donald Monahan, District Superintendent, California State Parks
Craig Mattson, Sector Superintendent, California State Parks
Stephen Bachman, Associate Park and Recreation Specialist, California State Parks
Brian Hickey, Project Manager, California State Parks
Lorrie Thomas-Dossett, District Maintenance Chief, California State Parks
Karen Barrett, Regional Interpretive Specialist, California State Parks
Cyndy Shafer, California State Parks
Marianne Hurley, Architectural Historian/State Historian II, California State Parks
City of Brentwood
Craig Bronzan, Director, City of Brentwood Parks and Recreation
Felix Errico, __ City of Brentwood
Ken DeSilva, Park Services Manager, City of Brentwood
Linda Stadlbauer, __ City of Brentwood
Donna Plunkett, Project Manager, EDAW
Susan Baumgartner, Landscape Designer, EDAW
Yanna McLaughlin, Environmental Planner, EDAW
The meeting began at 6:00pm. Craig Bronzan, Director of the City of Brentwood Parks and Recreation, opened the meeting and introduced members of the planning team from the City of Brentwood, including Project Manager, Felix Errico and several members of the John Marsh Historic Trust. He asked the audience if anyone was there representing the Vineyards at Marsh Creek, and there was no one present. Craig Mattson, Sector Superintendent for California State Parks then welcomed meeting participants to the General Plan Process and introduced members of the team representing California State Parks. The meeting proceeded according to the agenda and a summary follows below. He then introduced the Project Manager for the consultant team Donna Plunkett who then lead the next agenda item.

Planning Process Overview and Public Participation
Donna Plunkett introduced members of the team from EDAW and then gave a brief summary of the General Plan process, including some items that the Plan would cover such as natural and cultural resource management, operations and maintenance, recreation and visitor use and a long term vision for the Park. She noted that as part of the planning process State Parks would need to go through the naming anc classification process for the Park. She mentioned that there are many different classifications that Park units can have and it depends on the resources and how the unit will ultimately be used. Ms. Plunkett also noted that since the General Plan also includes a program level environmental impact report (“EIR”) this meeting is also serving as the official CEQA scoping meeting. She stated that if anyone has any issues that they think need to be addressed in the environmental review, that they can provide that information tonite. She noted that there are comment cards that people can fill out it they do not want to speak.

Ms. Plunkett went over the hand-outs that were provided for the meeting tonite including a copy of the questionnaire that was mailed with the newsletter in the event anyone did not get one and would like to fill it out. She also noted the contact information sheet noting the locations where people can send comments or questions during the planning process. She stated that the City and State Parks both have websites that will continue to have up to date Plan information. She spoke about the schedule for the planning process and how stakeholders can continue to be involved. There will be at least two more public workshops and it is hoped that the Plan could go before the State Parks Commission for approval in the summer of 2007.

Project Overview
Brian Hickey gave a detailed project overview. To provide meeting participants with a framework for understanding the function of a General Plan, Mr. Hickey first went over the mission statement of California State Parks and then discussed the individual elements of a General Plan. The information that Brian went over was listed on flip chart sheets that are attached however a summary of this information is included herein.

To prepare meeting attendees with background information for the project, Mr. Hickey then reviewed planning topics and issues specific to the John Marsh Home. These topics include:

  • House Restoration
  • Use of House
  • Attached Buildings
  • Adobe
  • Ranch Complex
  • Grounds
  • Public Use Facilities
  • Forms of Recreation
  • Interpretive Focus

Mr. Hickey then discussed the Issues and Constraints that will affect planning at the John Marsh Home; these include the prehistoric nature of the site/Native American burial grounds, land easements/rights-of-way, and ADA compliance requirements.

Next, Mr. Hickey reviewed planning topics and issues specific to Cowell Ranch. These topics include:

  • Recreation/Public Use
  • Facilities/Trails/Parking/Access
  • Natural and Cultural Resources
  • Orchard and Grazing Leases
  • Interpretation of site

Issues and Constraints specific to Cowell Ranch include:

  • Grazing
  • Trail Development
  • Endangered/Sensitive Species
  • Statewide Needs
  • Demographics

Last, Mr. Hickey discussed the naming and classification process.

Question and Answer Session
Ms. Plunkett then introduced and led the next item on the agenda, the Question and Answer Session. Ms. Plunkett asked meeting participants for questions or comments, also letting people know that if they had comments or questions, but wished to refrain from speaking, comment cards were available in the back that could be filled out and left with the planning team.

Q: (Anonymous Participant) Have Native American tribes yet been made aware of the presence of the burial site on the John Marsh/Cowell Ranch Property.
A: Ms. Plunkett (?) responded that yes, the Indian Heritage Commission had been formally notified of the existence of the burial site, but had not yet received communication from them in response.

Q: Gene Metz (John Marsh Historic Trust) commented that the John Marsh Historic Trust was not solely interested in the House, but also in the development of the surrounding lands. The Trust feels that the House was a symbol of the history of John Marsh and the culture of the time period in which he lived. It is the opinion of the Trust that the House be restored to its original state.

Q: Brian Kruse asked about the Contra Costa County Flood Control District (CCCFCD) Reservoir and if and/or how the team would be working with the CCCFCD during the planning process.
A: Paul Detjens, (CCCFCD) spoke and identified himself as a stakeholder and representative of the Flood Control District and stated that the CCCFC desired to be a good neighbor with the John Marsh Home/Cowell Ranch and that they would work cooperatively with all stakeholders during the process.

Q: (Anonymous Participant) Asked about trail connectivity between Cowell Ranch and Round Valley Regional Park.
A: Brian Hickey stated that the planning process intends to identify important trail connections between Cowell Ranch and adjacent open space lands and would sensibly connect to local trails when possible in order to meet the needs of the public.

Jamie Perkins (EBRPD) stated also that the East Bay Regional Park District was interested in working with the process in order to make open space connections. Ms. Perkins indicated that there would likely be paved trails in urban areas and dirt/gravel trails in remote locations to maintain the “back-country” feel.
Larry (Contra Costa Water District/Los Vaqueros Reservoir) stated that the CCWD is interested in a regional trail system, and noted two trail head connections that are significant between Los Vaqueros open space and Cowell Ranch. Larry also expressed interest in the Marsh Creek Watershed and restoration of Marsh Creek.

Q: Seth Adams (Save Mt. Diablo) stated that Save Mt. Diablo organization was primarily interested in saving resources (natural) and house secondarily. They support the expansion of Cowell Ranch through the addition of new lands. The organization supports the re-introduction of native species and specified a number of different species (list available). Seth stated that grazing produces a different type of [natural] environment, but is acceptable to the organization as a management tool. They supported multi-use passive recreation, noting specifically the expansion of Mt. Diablo Trail through Cowell Ranch. The organization proposes a 6-mile “Grand Loop” trail that would link regional open space areas. The organization is in disagreement with earlier comments regarding Marsh Creek Reservoir and supports the pursuit of a joint agreement [between the park and CCCFCD] that would allow access between the two sides of the park. The organization believes that visitor use (should be concentrated around the house and orchards [already developed areas within the park]. The organization has no formal position on the Park’s name but Seth suggested perhaps two names that would distinguish the park from the house. The organization has special interest in the sand quarries due to the presence of rare and endangered species at that specific area of the park. They are also interested in the preservation of the vernal pools. The organization supports acquisition of areas east of Cowell Ranch, specifically Kellogg Creek. Seth noted that Save Mt. Diablo has a published list of trails and staging areas that they feel would be appropriate additions to the system.
Paul (CCFCD) requested a copy of that publication.

Joan Douglas (Friends of Marsh Creek Watershed) supports the restoration of Marsh Creek.

Donna Plunkett proceeded to introduce the breakout sessions.

Break-Out Groups/Visioning Session
The meeting attendees broke out into four groups to generate comments and provide feedback to assist in the planning process. Each group was led by a facilitator that was a member of the planning team. Each group was provided with maps of the Park, which could be used to post site-specific information. Facilitators recorded comments from the sessions on flip charts, and these comments are listed as follows. To ensure consistency of content amongst the different groups, each facilitator was given several questions to use to generate comments. These questions are:

  • What sensitive resource information should be considered for this area
  • What do you think are the 3 most important issues that the General Plan should address?
  • What areas of the property have you visited? (mark on maps provided)
  • What recreational opportunities should be considered in the Plan?
  • What do you think should happen with the John Marsh House?
  • What facilities should be developed at Cowell Ranch?

Visioning Session Summaries
Each break-out group was instructed to select one individual that would represent them and summarize their discussion to the entire group. The summaries are as follows, and are listed by the group’s facilitator followed by a list of the items recorded on the flip chart notes.

Brian Hickey (yellow group) – Barry M. represented
Comments generated by group:

  • Control Grazing
  • Restore and Preserve for Native Species
  • Studies
  • Land Acquisition / Easement
  • Trails- Linkage to Mt. Diablo, Bay, Delta, 60-mile loop. A node in California-wide network
  • Species Managment
  • 14 acres around Marsh house also a Cultural Preserve. Important to respect both cultural and natural resources
  • “Living History” at John Marsh House
  • Suggest hosting Nature hikes
  • Staging Area for hiking loop
  • Restoration – use Adobe for Visitor Center
  • Facilities: Trails, camping, working ranch, adobe village

Flip chart notes from Brian Hickey’s Group (yellow)
1. Info resources

  • John Marsh Trust
  • East Contra Costa and Contra Costa Historical Society
  • John McKenzie – oral history
  • Local who own marsh artifacts
  • Vineyards generated reports at Marsh Creek
  • Cowell Ranch developments – 1993
  • Protect open space and species – restore to original condition
    - Save and restore “The House”
    - Cultural and archeological resources
    - Story of the flow of history 1000 BC to present
    - Evaluation of benefits of controlled grazing for resource improvement
    - Reservoir and Park managed together
    2. Additional acquisitions
  • Sensitive facility placements
  • Reservoir
  • John Marsh House
  • Open space and species preservation
  • Interpretation and education
  • Trail linkage
  • Invasive and exotic species
  • Riparian/creek restoration
  • Wild fire Management Plan
  • Agricultural demonstration area
    4. Hiking, biking and equestrian
  • Camping-trail and car – group
  • Cultural and nature/interpretive Center
  • Special events at Marsh House
  • Living history
  • Picnicking
  • No motorized recreational vehicles
    6. Trails
  • Camping
  • Visitor/nature center
  • Rebuild adobe
  • Staging areas
  • Clean up Ranch complex to function as working ranch
  • Indian village
  • Day use/picnic area

Marianne/ Cyndi Schafer (Blue Group) - Jamie Perkins (EBRPD) represented
• Sensitive Resources
o Classified into different types of use because of different segments/areas of park
o Wildlife movement corridors
o Protecting historic/archeological resources
o Protecting endangered species
o John Marsh House
• 3 Most Important Issues
o Restoration of House; Native American Center / Interpretation; Interpretation of Agricultural History
o Public Access / Trails and Recreation
o Park Connectivity
• Would like multiple-use trails
• Passive Uses- Backcountry Experience
o Uses appropriate to site, i.e., backpack camping only
• Parking only at House or designated staging area
• If restored, use John Marsh House as meeting center instead of as museum [active use] –or- leave house as-is “frozen in time.”
• Would like to see fruit stand or other concessions at house as new facilities

Flip chart notes from Marianne Hurley’s Group (Blue)
• What sensitive resource information should be considered for this area
o Regional trail connections (recreational resources)
 Marsh Creek trail to Round Valley Preserve
 Black Diamond Mines to Round Valley
o Classification of pieces of Park
o Prehistoric/archeological sites
o Endangered/rare species (i.e., kit fox) (flora and fauna)
o Wildlife movement corridors
o Restoration of John Marsh home/Adobe
o Native American Interpretive Center
o Interpretation of agricultural history
• What do you think are the 3 most important issues that the General Plan should address?
o Public access/trails and recreation
o Connectivity of pieces of the park (i.e., across reservoir)
o Restoration of native vegetation
• What areas of the property have you visited? (mark upon maps provided)
o See Map
• What recreational opportunities should be considered in the Plan?
o Hiking
o Biking
o Equestrian use
o Internal trail circulation
o Picnicking
o Camping – backcountry (designed to not impact natural/cultural resources
• What do you think should happen with the John Marsh House?
o Cultural Center – multi-use for the community (as opposed to a museum)
o Parking lot for house to be used as a staging area for trail users
o Partnership with Los Medanos College
o Museum with historic furnishings and exhibits
o Leave it be as “ruins”
• What facilities should be developed at Cowell Ranch?
o Restrooms
o Parking lot(s)
o Staging areas
o Trails
o Walk-in campground
o Concessions
o Fruit stand

Yanna McLaughlin (Green Group) – Patricia ____ (John Marsh Historic Trust) represented
• Sensitive Resources Identified:
o Native American Burial Site
o John Marsh House- would like to see restored to 1840-50s condition
o Golden Eagles
o Natural Habitat/ Preserve
o Grazing- not sure whether should continue
• Natural Resource theme throughout Park
• Would like the Park experience to be like traveling back in time
• No RVs allowed in Park; trailhead staging areas extent of vehicular access
• Use sustainable building materials
• Would like house to be utilized to generate income- perhaps rent out for weddings
• Restrooms/Parking shared with City at Amphitheater & Vineyard
• Access limited to Bicycles, Pedestrians, Horses
o No asphalt paving in Park
• Educational Experience for students
o Spend night
o Would like children to be able to experience / understand Native American culture.
o Agricultural Tourism- Apple Orchards (what Abby wanted for the site), Vineyards
• Interpret Miwok influence
o Use historical codes/guidelines to make house stable

Flip chart notes from Yanna McLaughlin’s Group (green)

• What sensitive resource information should be considered for this area
o Native American resources
o Burial Sites
o John Marsh House
o Golden eagles (?)
o Natural habitat
o Problem with the cattle
o Cultural resources/theme
• What do you think are the 3 most important issues that the General Plan should address?
o Restore the John Muir House and surrounding landscape
o Trail use and connectivity to other trails (including equestrian use and general trail use)
o Habitat and open space restoration/create destination
o Sustainability and green building (keep it natural)
o Allow events
• What areas of the property have you visited? (mark upon maps provided)
o See Map
• What recreational opportunities should be considered in the Plan?
o Trails – pedestrian, bicycle, equestrian
o Educational focus and trips
• Overnight experience
• Guided tours – as minor ???
• Orchards and vineyards
o Agricultural tourism and eco-tourism
o Historic – travel back in time
• What do you think should happen with the John Marsh House?
o Completely restore and show Miwok influence
o Use State historical building codes and guidelines
o Use sustainable building materials
• What facilities should be developed at Cowell Ranch?
o No facilities on surrounding areas except for:
• Trailheads and trails
• Interpretive Materials/facilities
• Share restroom facilities with adjacent property

Karen Barrett & Lorrie Thomas-Dossett (Red Group) Gene Metz (John Marsh Historic Trust) represented
• Preserve Sensitive Environments
• Arrest erosion
• Preserve Creek
• Replace early landscaping
• Continue agriculture- organically
• Acknowledge pre-history
• Restore house to pre- 1860s condition; learn about history of that period through house
• Use house for educational, cultural, and entertainment purposes
• Explore how to knit together fragmented areas of Park
o Land swaps, easements, uses in keeping with sensitive park environment
• Acknowledge management is necessary [associated budget limitations] use docents in park to fill in for management [paid staff] when possible-
o Docents lead tours/hikes
• Dark Sky- explore whether this can be returned to park-
• Hiking, educational field trips
• Very carefully controlled camping
• Managed Grazing- all animals on property managed in a sensitive and historic fashion
• Maintain view shed
• Bypass development across Marsh Creek
• Screen/Soften edges of property to focus attention inward on property

Flip chart notes from Karen Barrett’s Group (Red)
• What sensitive resource information should be considered for this area
o Native American history
o John Marsh House – History tie to area
o Adobe
o Transition of history
o Flowage easement (see map)
o Flood Control Water District
o Future use of Flood District Land (trail corridors)
o Potential cooperative use
o Future flood district project/development
o Trail corridor/connection (flood district, other land owners)
o Cultural resources
o Natural resources
o Marsh Creek Watershed Restoration
o Fish ladder – Flood District
o Cultural Landscape
• What do you think are the 3 most important issues that the General Plan should address?
o Public access
o Protection of cultural/natural resources
o Knowledge of and education of historic period
• What areas of the property have you visited? (mark upon maps provided)
o See Map
• What recreational opportunities should be considered in the Plan?
o Day use
o Seasonal camping
o Hiking
o Educational field trips
o Docent lead trips/hikes
o Observatory
o City amphitheater
• What do you think should happen with the John Marsh House?
o Restore and protect John Marsh home to pre-1868
o Managed grazing as opposed to historic grazing
o Providing water for grazing (off bank water)
o Protection of view shed
o Incorporation of park areas – connection (those separated by road, flood district); (fragmented etc and base how to make whole)
o Land swap?
o Long-term easements (agricultural use?)
• What facilities should be developed at Cowell Ranch?
o Historic corridor to ranch connection to John Marsh Home


1. Not “Cowell Ranch”
2. Marsh Creek State Park
3. Los Meganos State Park
4. John Marsh Historic (House) State Park
5. Los Megacenos Historic Preserve
6. John Marsh Cultural Preserve

Ms. Plunkett then asked the group if there were any additional questions or comments:

Q: Carol (John Marsh Historic Trust) let the group know of events/activities sponsored by the John Marsh Historic Trust:
• Saturday June 3, 2006. Box lunch and tour of House
• September 24, 2006
• October 21, 2006. Starlight Dinner- fundraiser for Trust.

Conclusion and Next Steps
Ms. Plunkett thanked the group for attending and for their participation and convened the meeting at approximately 8:45 PM.

Handouts Available at Meeting
• Meeting Agenda
• Contact List
• Comment Card
• Questionnaire
• Newsletter

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