National park proposal would elevate Volvon land

SFGATE article, by Tom Stienstra

A renewed push for a new national park in the Bay Area could settle the debate over historic American Indian sites.

Photo: Paul Chinn, SFC. A grassy meadow with Mt. Diablo rising in the background.

A group called the East Bay Hill People has envisioned Volvon National Park, a combination of existing parks from Mount Diablo to the east that overlay historic territory of the Volvon tribe.

“We have identified over 80 intact villages and campsites and over 2,000 mortar holes in Volvon territory alone,” said James Benney of the East Bay Hill People.

Thus a conflict starts. One group of historians believes that if you teach people to love something, they will have a reason to protect it. Another group believes that if you make historic sites public, people will damage them.

Every time I write about historic sites, I get letters from archaeologists who say that only they should have access.

Others believe just the opposite: Teach people to love the roots of the land they walk on.

Just 200 years ago, the Bay Area was populated with about 10,000 people. They fished, hunted and gathered acorns to provide the staples of their diets.

Photo: Michael Maloney, SFC. Hikers enjoy the well-deserved view after climbing to the top of Eagle Peak. In the background is the summit of Mt Diablo (right) and North Peak (left).

The latest data show that roughly 7.5 million people live in the Bay Area, but it seems few know much about the region’s past.

Like many who have been to the area’s parks, it’s a hobby for me to find the historic grinding mortars. This is where the tribes would grind the shelled acorns to flour, and then leach out the bitter taste with water. When I find these sites, I always try to envision life at a tribal encampment.

Benney said the tribe’s national park proposal combines existing parkland: Mount Diablo, Morgan Territory, Los Vaqueros Watershed, Black Diamond Mines, Brushy Peak, Marsh House, and land around North Livermore Road north of Interstate 580.

I’ve talked with some national park administrators who said such a plan would be rejected as a national park. But with all agencies on board and no resistance, it might be considered as a national recreation area.

Tom Stienstra is The San Francisco Chronicle outdoors writer. E-mail: Twitter: @StienstraTom

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