Thomas Kirker Creek

Acreage 10.5 acres
Watershed Kirker Creek 
Vegetation habitats Grassland and riparian 
Ownership Protected since 2011 by Save Mount Diablo 

Description

Thomas Kirker Creek, along with the adjacent Thomas North property or Thomas Home Ranch, is the gateway to beautiful Nortonville Canyon and Kirker Pass. Above the two properties, a rugged open space corridor stretches from Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve north toward Suisun Bay.

Thomas Kirker Creek is dominated by Kirker Creek, sinuous and lined with big oaks, willows, and cottonwoods and with a fire road leading north, in a steep sandstone-striped canyon. The trees attract many bird species, including the rare loggerhead shrike. A large songbird, it’s known as the “butcher bird.” It impales insects, lizards, and small birds or mammals on thorns or barbed wire before eating them, because it does not have the talons of larger birds of prey.

Thomas Kirker Creek and Thomas Home Ranch were acquired at the same time that the East Bay Regional Park District purchased the 160-acre Thomas Central and 852-acre Thomas South properties, and a few months after their purchase of the 798-acre Barron property, another Thomas property. Although those properties are bigger, they are also more rugged and remote. Thomas Kirker Creek and Thomas Home Ranch were far more developable, threatened, and expensive.

In 1869, the property was homesteaded by the Thomas family, Welsh miners by way of Nortonville. At our 30th anniversary in 2001, Save Mount Diablo awarded the Thomas family a Mountain Star Stewardship Award for their care of their property for more than 130 years: “The family has resisted Pittsburg’s efforts to annex and develop their ranch lands. Without their commitment to their land, the scenic Black Diamond foothills of Mount Diablo would have long since been paved over.”

The Park District was interested in purchasing the Thomas Kirker Creek and Thomas Home Ranch properties, but a variety of problems, including developer competition, timing, and technical issues related to funding, threatened to get in the way. Save Mount Diablo stepped in to help. “The Park District is very grateful for Save Mount Diablo’s role in protecting this strategic property at the mouth of Nortonville Canyon,” said Nancy Wenninger, Assistant General Manager/Land Division for the District, at the time. “We were very interested in this acquisition, but we weren’t going to be able to complete the purchase. Save Mount Diablo’s ability to move quickly and be flexible really made the deal happen. The property is important by itself, but it will also help preserve open space further up the canyon and includes an important trail connection, which will help make the final link between Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve and Concord Naval Weapons Station. Over the years, SMD has been one of the District’s most valuable allies and has helped us achieve success many times. We have a great partnership.”

Thomas Home Ranch has been transferred to the East Bay Regional Park District, and Thomas Kirker Creek continues to be owned by Save Mount Diablo.

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