In the hills between Livermore and Tracy, in the southeast corner of Alameda County, there is beautiful, ecologically diverse State Parks land. But you may never be able to see it in its current natural state unless we can convince Governor Newsom to secure this property as a place to discover the natural and cultural history of early California. With the reintroduction of legislation to save Tesla as a non-motorized park, it’s a good time to recall why this land is worth protecting.
Tesla’s 3,100 acres are currently slated for development as an off-highway vehicle recreation facility, which would severely impact the flora and fauna that depend on its habitat. Tesla supports 42 wildlife and 13 plant species considered rare or of special concern by state and federal agencies, 28 plant species that are locally rare, and seven sensitive native plant communities. The sensitive plant communities at Tesla include desert olive, choke cherry, Fremont cottonwood, valley oak woodland, blue oak woodland, curly blue grass, riparian scrub, and (potentially) purple needlegrass grassland.
Over 1,000 acres of blue oak woodland (Quercus douglasii) dot the hillsides at Tesla. Thirty-three acres of valley oak woodland (Quercus lobata) can be found where Arroyo Seco Creek and its tributaries weave though the property. Oaks provide food and habitat for hundreds of other species, including humans. Indigenous Californians have known the nutritional value of acorns for millennia; they are an important source of protein, carbohydrates, fat, B vitamins, and minerals.
Off-highway vehicles at the nearby Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area have taken a heavy toll on the landscape. Though resilient over centuries, many of the rare species at Tesla are fragile and easily lost to vehicle tires and other high disturbance activities.
Here are some of Tesla’s rare plants.
Lemmon’s jewelflower (Caulanthus lemmonii) grows in grasslands, chaparral, and scrub, and is classified by CNPS as rare, threatened, or endangered in California and elsewhere.
Stinkbells (Fritillaria agrestis), a lily named for its distinctive fragrance, grows to about one and a half feet tall in small populations across a number of counties in Central California. Fritillaries are known for the nodding, bell-shaped flowers and speckled or checkered petal pattern that characterize many species.
Large-flowered fiddleneck (Amsinckia grandiflora) makes stunning spring flower displays where it grows, but it is classified by CNPS as rare, threatened, or endangered in California and elsewhere. The curled-over inflorescence gives this genus its “fiddleneck” name.
Chaparral ragwort (Senecio aphanactis) is a delicate annual classified by CNPS as rare, threatened, or endangered in California. Emmelina monodactyla, the morning-glory plume moth, likely uses chaparral ragwort as a host plant for its caterpillars. The unique feathery wings of the moth bear some resemblance to chaparral ragwort’s fruit, which is tipped with long, white bristles.
How you can make a difference: Last month CNPS joined with Friends of Tesla Park to speak for newly reintroduced legislation by Senator Steve Glazer and Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan that would designate Tesla as a non-motorized park (see the April CNPS East Bay conservation report: Renewed Efforts to Permanently Protect Tesla: Bills Pass Two State Legislative Hearings).
However, Governor Newsom doesn’t have to wait for legislators to send him a bill—he has the authority to declare Tesla a non-motorized park now. Please sign the Sierra Club’s petition asking that Governor Newsom designate Tesla as a state park for non-motorized recreation only. Click here for the Sierra Club petition.
If you live in State Senator Nancy Skinner’s district (shown here), please email or call her office (916-651-4009) and politely ask that she do whatever she can to save Tesla and get it redesignated as a park for non-motorized recreation only.
To stay informed about Tesla and what you can do to help preserve it, follow Friends of Tesla Park on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
—Jane Francis, Conservation Committee member, CNPS East Bay Chapter