North Richmond Watershed Connections Project

The North Richmond Watershed Connections (NRWC) project serves to link this community with its green spaces through elements that serve to enhance the health of both residents and of San Pablo and Wildcat Creeks, while also improving access to local natural resources and community amenities. It offers a vivid demonstration of how taking an integrated approach by installing green infrastructure (GI)increasing the urban tree canopy, and improving pedestrian and bicycle access through a public-nonprofit partnership creates a nature and community-based model for cultivating watershed stewardship, community resilience, and place-making in other communities around Contra Costa County. 

The NRWC was completed in December 2023, following a four-year community-based preparation and installation process, itself the result of an innovative collaboration between Contra Costa County’s Transportation Engineering and Watershed Programs and two local nonprofit organizations, Urban Tilth and The Watershed Project.   The County and its two nonprofit project partners have been working with community members to create a healthy, walkable, green connection between San Pablo and Wildcat Creeks to benefit the health and water quality of these two urban watersheds, enhance public green space, and increase walkability and neighborhood safety.

The NRWC project consists of three components, illustrated in the figures below.

  1. The First Mile/Last Mile Urban Greening was led by the Transportation Engineering Division of Contra Costa County. It was completed in the Spring of 2023. Along Fred Jackson Way (FJW), 38 crepe myrtle street trees were planted to enhance the “complete street” improvements that had been previously installed to benefit cyclists and pedestrians. Among these trees is a “Filterra tree” which provides rain garden benefits for stormwater draining off the east side of FJW.

  2. The Fred Jackson Way Rain Garden component was led by Urban Tilth (UT), which operates the North Richmond Farm (The Future Farm – Urban Tilth ). Completed in January 2023, this large GI feature adjoins the North Richmond Farm (on land formerly owned by the County Flood Control District and purchased by UT in 2022). The rain garden is treating  stormwater from both Fred Jackson Way and Brookside Drive, and it has already had significant water quality benefits to San Pablo Creek, to which it is connected. This rain garden is maintained by UT’s “Basins of Relations Team.” 

  3. The Clean and Green Adopt-a-Tree Program and the Walkable Watershed component was managed by The Watershed Project (TWP) (Greening Urban Watersheds - The Watershed Project). This component can be defined by its two elements:
    • Adopt-a-Tree. This element is serving to increase the urban canopy by planting 40 street trees, largely in the front yards of private residences in collaboration with homeowners. It also included the preparation of an urban forestry plan and inventory system of the local tree canopy. This element was installed and will be maintained by TWP and homeowners. The North Richmond Urban Greening Plan and corresponding Implementation Toolkit will serve as template or model for a Contra Costa countywide tree master plan to be prepared in within the not-too-distant future.

    • Urban Nature Loop / walkable watersheds aims to improve watershed awareness, access, and walkability with wayfinding, artwork, and interpretive elements along the Urban Nature Loop. TWP worked with a local artist and with residents to create wayfinding markers, street artwork, and historical-interpretive elements along the Urban Nature Trail route to enhance the sense of place in the neighborhood and the quality of neighborhood to it.

The North Richmond Watershed Connections project recently received the Contra Costa County Watershed Forum Award for Outstanding Watershed Project. This initiative not only invested in greening infrastructure but also in people, uniting different partners to create a shared vision for a greener, more walkable, and livable community. The community-based partnerships in the NRWC project were also featured in a short film about its project manager, John Steere, who was awarded Greenbelt Alliance’s “Hidden Heroes of the Greenbelt for 2023. You can watch the four-minute film here.

The North Richmond Watershed Connections project is based on a "Prop 1 - Urban Greening" grant of about $900,000 that was approved by the State Coastal Conservancy Board of Directors on August 22, 2019. It was awarded to Contra Costa County for the County’s Public Works Department/Watershed Program to implement this important Green infrastructure, urban greening, and resiliency project with its partners. State-Coastal-Conservancy
Exhibit A - Project Maps and Graphics
North Richmond Watersheds Connection Project Overview Map
Design Plan of Urban Farm Rain Garden

For more information on the NRWC project, please email John Steere, Watershed Management Planning Specialist - Contra Costa County Public Works Department Watershed Program.