Why We Need The VINE TRAIL, by Maureen Gaffney

“We played there as kids--but you can’t go there anymore” is a recent and recurring lament from friends, family and colleagues. Certainly this is not new, we all recall some elder in our lives pointing out the poppy field now entombed under aisle 13 of the WalMart, the pond with the rope swing and the crawfish that’s now fenced in, private, no trespassing. While the North Bay counties have gained population over the past few decades, they are still rural enough to qualify as “country living.” And while it’s nice to look at the trees, hills, vineyards and blue sky, one also desires to walk a country lane, a path, a trail--to ride a bike in a meandering, carefree fashion. 

But even if you are fortunate enough to live in a place with the above-referenced views and fresh air, you are increasingly unlikely to find the solitude you seek for a walk, a ride. One such country lane I’ve been strolling for 30+ years at my sister’s house adjacent to Maacaama Creek in Alexander Valley is now gated, the vineyard manager having decided the liability was too great. A colleague at a sister regional trail organization grew up in Mendocino, left, moved back with his children to raise them free-range. They fled back to San Francisco cause there was nowhere to walk/bike/play. Private property. No Trespassing. 

As a salve that may help solve this conundrum--the Napa Valley VINE TRAIL. The VINE TRAIL is and will be 100% free. 100% open to the public. 100% yours (and yours, and yours too). With over 14 miles in place, one can take in the changing season in the Valley, get the last of the vineyard’s fall colors. Breathe a sigh of relief when the rains come and verdant velvet grasses soften the landing of the last lonesome leaf. Many of you walked the VINE TRAIL with your family over the Thanksgiving Holiday. If you are like me, you consumed 5,000+ calories but burned off at least 72 walking or riding the trail (note to self: better keep riding…). Many will do it again over the upcoming holidays, perhaps making the VINE TRAIL a holiday tradition. 

The Napa Valley VINE TRAIL will begin constructing four additional miles between the Vallejo ferry and American Canyon in 2022. Groundbreaking for 9 miles between St. Helena and Calistoga will also occur next year. Staff and Board of the VINE TRAIL Coalition, along with its many partners upvalley are working hard to plan, design, fund, permit and construct the final gap linking Yountville to St. Helena. So while that shortcut by the creek, through the orchard to your Aunt’s house may be gone, take heart. The VINE TRAIL will soon provide 47 miles of trail under blue skies, next to creeks, trees and vines. And there’s no “trespassing.” It’s yours.