At Risk in Solano County
Les Barclay, a Bay Area native, once lived in Hawaii but he missed northern California’s weather, trails, open space, and wildlife. “I’m an outdoor enthusiast,” he says. “The Bay Area has the most diverse land that is protected of any urban area.” A member of the Native Plant Society, he often hikes in Rockville Hills Regional Park.
He bought a 16-acre walnut farm outside Fairfield in 2000. The nuts are harvested in October and taken to a processing facility in the central valley. The shortage of nearby processing plants is a challenge he shares with others. “The price of fuel means the driver has increased what he charges us,” Les says.
He’s seen a lot of change in Solano County, including some poorly planned growth. He credits Solano’s Orderly Growth Initiative, originally approved in 1984 and renewed by voters in 2008, for protecting agricultural land. “It’s the primary reason Solano has its beautiful, uncluttered open space between cities,” he says.
The renewal of the initiative was a fight, and Les helped write letters to the editor and met with growers to explain the benefits of the measure. It passed with nearly 70% of the vote. The Orderly Growth Initiative is the main reason that 73% of Solano’s greenbelt lands enjoy a high level of protection.
Yet over 30,800 acres remain at high and medium risk of development in the county. The Dixon Ridge area outside the city is some of the Bay Area’s best farmland. Dixon—located along the I-80 corridor within easy commuting distance of Sacramento—lacks an urban growth boundary, leaving adjacent agricultural land vulnerable to sprawl.
Solano County is expanding opportunities for agri-tourism as a way to generate revenue. The only county in the Bay Area without an Open Space District, Solano could add one to help protect its natural areas as well as promote its agricultural heritage.