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Walnut Creek Magazine

A Dynamic Force: Seth Adams

May 05, 2020 04:25PM ● By Deborah Burstyn
Taking a hike is on the day’s to-do list for Seth Adams, the land conservation director of Save Mt. Diablo. Not for fun, though. Adams negotiates complex deals with developers, cities, and residents, like the one he did at McGee Ranch in Danville, preserving 400-acres of open space surrounding the 30-acres of residential development. with 400-acres remaining open space. “It’s turned out to be a great relationship,” Adams says. “The area around Diablo and Green Valley roads is an incredible open space corridor. Due to the work we’ve done, it will be protected.”

In a nutshell, this is what Adams does. While most with his business acumen would be brokering deals for Wall Street, Adams negotiates for Mother Nature. His efforts have helped Contra Costa move from a county with only 12% of its land preserved for open space in 1988, to one with over 33% preserved today. A pragmatist, Adams believes that as communities increase in population density, the amount of open space also needs to increase for balance.

In 1971, when the organization was founded, Adams helped Save Mt. Diablo protect 110,000 acres on Mt. Diablo from development; a giant step forward from the 6,788 acres protected at the time. Despite these accomplishments, thousands of acres remain vulnerable. “We are ground zero in this area for development pressure. It’s not happening in Marin County; it’s happening here. Save Mt. Diablo is committed to protecting the quality of life here. Without us, Walnut Creek would not be Walnut Creek,” says Adams.

Once considered a mere “watchdog environmental group,” Save Mt. Diablo received national accreditation as a land trust, due to the conservation efforts of Adams and his team, who work tirelessly to protect views, ecosystems, and recreational areas. “We decided to raise money to directly acquire land and turn it over to the state park system,” he says. But the park system was backlogged in maintaining the land it already owned. So Save Mt. Diablo became a land trust to manage its purchases. “Acquisition is a one-time thing, but stewardship is forever,” Adams says.

Although its headquarters are in Walnut Creek, Save Mt. Diablo monitors development and restores habitat lands within an area that stretches from I-680 on the west to the Delta on the east, and from I-580 up to the Carquinez Strait. But the organization’s relationship with Walnut Creek and its vast network of trails and open space is unique. “Walnut Creek backs up to Mt Diablo,” Adams says. “One of the communities with the closest relationship to the mountain is Walnut Creek. Everything we do ends up benefiting Walnut Creek.”

He takes pride in his many accomplishments: preserving tens of thousands of acres, helping to create urban limit lines, connecting trails to parks, re-introducing peregrine falcons to Castle Rock Park, doubling the size of Lime Ridge and connecting it to Shell Ridge. His personal favorite is the Perkins Canyon Trail east of Clayton. “Half a mile from the trailhead, there’s a big beautiful meadow and a creek.”

Adams, who celebrated his 33rd anniversary with Save Mt. Diablo in March, says he’s “lucky to have gotten involved at a time when Mt. Diablo was becoming one of the biggest conservation stories in the Bay Area.” Walnut Creek residents and scores of others, who have benefited from his lifework, would say we are the lucky ones.
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