McClellan Ranch: Preserving Nature and History

Located in the Monta Vista neighborhood of Cupertino, the McClellan Ranch Preserve is the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and reconnect with nature.

The Stevens Creek Trail at the McClellan Ranch Preserve.

Once the site of a horse ranch owned by the McClellan family in the 1930s and 1940s, the 18-acre natural preserve is now home to the local 4-H Club, the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, and a large community garden.

The property features the original ranch house, a working milk barn and livestock barn, and two transplanted buildings: a replica blacksmith shop and a water tower.  It also features an Environmental Education Center opened in 2015.

Visitors to the preserve can participate in an after-school nature program, enjoy some birdwatching, help with a habitat restoration project, learn about the area’s history, or follow the paved Stevens Creek Trail that winds through the preserve to Blackberry Farm and the Stocklmeir Orchard.

Designed by SSA Landscape Architects, GraniteCrete was chosen to pave the Stevens Creek Trail “primarily for its natural looking aesthetic and for ADA-accessibility purposes.”

Christian Harris, one of the architects on the project, said SSALA “uses GraniteCrete frequently and will continue to use [it] on projects ranging from residential installs to public parks. We like the look of the product, its durability relative to other decomposed granite stabilizers, and that we can use it as an accessible surface.”

We’re thrilled GraniteCrete was chosen to play a key part in helping visitors enjoy this beautiful and historic preserve.

A Perfect Pathway in Five Easy Steps

When creating a landscape design that includes pathways to help pedestrians move from point A to point B, five key questions need to be answered:

  1. Is it functional?
  2. Is it accessible?
  3. Is it durable?
  4. Does it address environmental concerns?
  5. Is it aesthetically pleasing?

Functionality

Both the level of traffic and the type of traffic affect the paving material and the path width chosen.  A pathway should allow people—and potentially vehicles—to easily traverse the landscape.  To achieve this, a couple of things need to be taken into account:

  • Is the pathway going to be in the backyard of a private residence that will see low foot traffic, or is it going to be in a business park where it will see high foot traffic? The paving material chosen should be able to accommodate the expected level of traffic.
  • Depending on the expected type of traffic, the width of the pathway should accommodate it. The width of the path in a backyard may not need to be as wide as one in a business park, where it might be necessary to account for pedestrians walking side-by-side, in opposite directions, or even use by vehicles.

Accessibility

The pathway should be accessible to people who use assistive devices such as wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, et cetera. The paving material should be stable enough to support these devices without the worry of becoming mired in loose or displaced gravel, and must provide enough traction to prevent slippage.


Durability

The paving material used for a pathway should be long-lasting and able to withstand the expected level of traffic, with minimal repairs and/or maintenance. Issues that might arise due to a material with low durability being used include:

  • An uneven surface due to material wearing away (which could affect both the path’s functionality and accessibility)
  • Higher maintenance costs due to frequent repairs
  • A pathway that is aesthetically unappealing.

Environmental Concerns

When designing a pathway, a paving material that will address environmental concerns is becoming increasingly important.  Two key environmental issues that should be addressed are permeability and the pathway’s Solar Reflectance Index (SRI).Permeability
A pathway that is not permeable contributes to puddling on the surface of the path, increased runoff and potential erosion, and reduced groundwater recharge.  A pathway that is permeable combats all of these issues and provides a more environmentally-responsible choice.

Solar Reflectance Index (SRI)
A pathway paved with a material that has a higher SRI will retain less heat than a material with a lower SRI.  This means the surface of the pathway⁠—and the area’s surrounding temperature⁠—will remain cooler, reducing its heat island effect.  This lower surface temperature spells good news for people walking the pathway, as well as for the feet of any four-legged companions who don’t normally wear protective footwear.


Aesthetics

Beyond functionality and environmental friendliness, the paving material should be visually pleasing, enhancing the look and feel of the landscape. Color, texture, and shape combine to create the overall aesthetics of the path. Earth-tone colors, natural textures, and curves that match the landscape will lead to a more natural-looking path. The overall flow of the pathway should also feel natural.

Finding a paving material that meets all of these criteria can be difficult.  That’s why we developed GraniteCrete – to meet all of these criteria and more. GraniteCrete is a beautiful and natural material fit for all lengths and widths of pathways; it has a low SRI, is durable and stable, and exceeds ADA accessibility requirements. Learn more about why GraniteCrete is the ideal choice here.

Wyandotte Park: A Little Slice of Heaven

Located in the Rengstorff area of Mountain View, Wyandotte Park is nestled in a tiny lot between industrial business and homes.  Taking up 0.9 acres, the park provides neighboring residents with a much-needed open space and play area.

The city of Mountain View has an admirable goal to devote three acres of property per 1,000 residents to public park and recreational facilities; Wyandotte Park helps the city accomplish this.

Despite its size, the park is packed with a variety of components to satisfy visitors of all ages.  It features play structures and fitness equipment, an open lawn, benches, public art, and even a giant abacus with rock beads. 

Tying it all together is an overarching nature theme that includes “floating” rocks on metal poles, a leaf-shaped balance board, and landscaping boulders.  Throughout the park, there are areas of decomposed granite stabilized with GraniteCrete.  As a natural-looking and environmentally-friendly product, GraniteCrete was the perfect paving choice for this green space.

The abacus in Wyandotte Park, on top of GraniteCrete.  Photo by Olivia Treynor.

GraniteCrete: A Wheel Good Choice for Driveways

As homeowners make green choices with increasing frequency—incorporating native plants into the landscape, opting for solar power, and switching to low-flow appliances—many are turning their sights toward the pavement surrounding their homes.

GraniteCrete driveway at a private residence in Pasadera, CA.

For the areas that see vehicle traffic, homeowners have some important factors to consider:

  • Is the material durable enough to bear the weight and movement of a vehicle?
  • Is the finished product going to be attractive and complement the home and surrounding landscape?
  • Will it be susceptible to annoyances common with traditional paving options, such as surface puddling or weeds poking through?

Finding a solution that fits all these criteria can be challenging.  Fortunately, one doesn’t need to look further than GraniteCrete paving material.

Durability
GraniteCrete is an average of 3.5 – 4.5 times stronger in compression than what is required to withstand the surface pressure exerted by a heavy vehicle, such as a fire truck.  Outside of laboratory testing, GraniteCrete’s durability has been put to the test at UC Santa Cruz: A crane with ballast weighing 95,000 pounds traveled down a GraniteCrete pathway to its staging area.  Two wheels were on the surrounding dirt and two wheels were on the GraniteCrete, for a total of 47,500 moving pounds on the GraniteCrete at one time.  Despite this heavy load, the GraniteCrete bore the weight without failing!

Aesthetics
GraniteCrete is available in five standard earth-tone colors, as well as custom colors, allowing it to blend in with nearly any surrounding landscape.  This also allows it to easily complement other landscaping elements, such as stone and wood – as shown by the excellent work of Dave Washer

Common Annoyances
Since GraniteCrete is porous, water won’t stay on the surface – meaning homeowners can say “goodbye” to having to choose between dodging puddles or getting their shoes wet after rainfall.  Despite its permeability, GraniteCrete deters weed growth as a naturally weed- (and gopher!) resistant product.  Although it’s common to see greenery poking through pavement, that won’t happen with GraniteCrete.

Other Benefits
While a GraniteCrete driveway is a winning solution for the homeowner, it also benefits the surrounding community.  Due to its high Solar Reflectance Index (SRI) value, it helps combat the Urban Heat Island Effect; this can lead to reduced energy costs, air pollution levels, and heat-related illnesses – now that’s cool!

Golden Gate Park’s Pawsome Update

In San Francisco, Golden Gate Park is a true treasure and oasis amongst the hustle and bustle of the city.  Visited by 24 million people each year, it stretches over 1,000 acres and has something for everyone, including: gardens, picnic areas, numerous trails, a disc golf course, and a dog park in each quadrant.

The newly-renovated Dog Training Area at Golden Gate Park.

One of these dog parks—known as the Dog Training Area, located near the Bison Paddock—recently underwent a renovation thanks to a generous grant from the California Natural Resources Agency.

The renovation included numerous improvements and updates, including new picnic tables and benches, replacement of the fencing, a multi-level dog fountain, new landscaping, and accessibility improvements to the parking lot and pathways throughout the area.

For the pathways, San Francisco’s Public Works department chose GraniteCrete paving material. GraniteCrete stood out as the best accessible choice because it requires minimal maintenance and is “firm and stable, non-slip, and permeable.”

GraniteCrete is thrilled to be part of the Dog Training Area’s fetching transformation, and hope visitors and their four-legged friends enjoy it for years to come.

GraniteCrete Joins the CLCA Board

GraniteCrete is excited to announce that our very own Senior Account Manager, Dave Ventura, has joined the Central Coast Chapter of the California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA) as a board member!  Dave will serve as both secretary and treasurer for the 2021 calendar year. He’`s excited to join the Central Coast Chapter’s team and looks forward to helping it grow.

GraniteCrete Senior Account Manager Dave Ventura.
David Ventura, Senior Account Manager

What is the CLCA?
Incorporated in 1952, the CLCA was formed when three regional landscaping trade groups joined together to “protect the scope of work allowed under the C-27 [contracting] license.”

Since then, the CLCA has grown to include a variety of programs and services designed to help and support landscape contractors throughout the state.  Those include statewide education efforts, an annual convention, and the  Landscape Educational Advancement Foundation (LEAF) scholarship for students majoring in programs related to landscaping.

Membership in the CLCA has also expanded over the decades to include landscape architects and designers, teachers and students, government personnel, and more!

Don’t Let Winter Send Your Landscaping Projects into Hibernation

While some paving materials can technically be installed under conditions that are less than ideal, doing so can be risky and increase the likelihood the product will fail shortly after installation.  Common issues that can plague these installations are large cracks, uneven surfaces, and holes in the pavement.  The need for these avoidable repairs can drive up both product and labor costs in the long-run – and cause unnecessary headaches!

GranitCrete installation in progress.
Installation of GraniteCrete at the Elkhorn Slough Reserve in Watsonville, CA.

Fortunately, there are a few paving solutions available that are less-prone to such issues, including GraniteCrete.  Two primary factors that might totally prevent the installation of other paving materials either don’t affect – or actually help! – the installation of GraniteCrete: low temperatures, and moisture in the air.

Low Temperatures
Low temperatures can affect the integrity of some paving materials, but not GraniteCrete!  It can be installed at temperatures as low as 33° Fahrenheit – just one degree above freezing.

Moisture
Moisture in the air can also negatively impact the installation of some paving materials.  While GraniteCrete cannot be installed during rainfall, light fog and mist are actually beneficial and aid its installation.  According to Geoff Smith, who developed GraniteCrete, even a drizzle won’t necessarily impede proper installation – provided adjustments are made to the moisture level added during the installation process.

Happy Holidays from GraniteCrete!

As the year winds down and we turn our sights toward the one to come, we’d like to express our gratitude to the architects, installers, retailers, and customers who chose to include us in their projects this past year. We appreciate your support, and look forward to continuing to work with you in the future.  Before we gear up for the new year, we’d like to take a moment to share a few highlights from 2020:

GraniteCrete has also been fortunate to be a part of many exciting projects that put sustainability, durability and permeability first.  Here, we recognize this year’s outstanding commercial and residential installations:

  • The new campus for a well-known tech company, AKA “The Camp”: Located in the Ardenwood district of Fremont, the surrounding landscape of this new “mega-campus” was designed by RHAA Landscape Architects and installed by Jensen Landscape Services (JLS).  According to JLS Superintendent, Eduardo Vera:

“GraniteCrete was a good fit for this campus because it offers a natural look that blends well into the surrounding landscape. We created a campground area with the GraniteCrete being the main paving, and it really brings this section of the job together!”

  • Corte Madera: The site of a former dairy, Dave Washer spent several months transforming this property in Corte Madera into something truly extraordinary.  While he incorporated GraniteCrete in traditional ways – as paving for patios or stairs – he also used it as “grout” in between stones, and  to create a more firm surface beneath a bed of mulch.

Retailer Spotlight

This year we would like to recognize Graniterock – Redwood City as our top retailer and Michael Doucette as our top retail salesperson. Graniterock has been a great partner over the years, and this year the Redwood City facility decided to become a pre-mix facility; the end result brought them six-digit sales for the year. We would like to give a special thank you to Michael for bringing us in on almost all of his sales involving GraniteCrete. This was a great choice, as his closure rate was almost 100% for the year. Thank you Graniterock and Michael for a fantastic year!

Outstanding sales representative Michael Doucette and a feline friend.

UCSC Chooses Sustainability

At the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC,) the Coastal Science Campus covers 100 acres, and encompasses several buildings that play significant roles in the university’s Coastal Sustainability Initiative.

GraniteCrete paving outside the Seymour Marine Discovery Center, UC Santa Cruz.

The Coastal Sustainability Initiative addresses various environmental issues with a focus on the health of coastal ecosystems around the world.  At the Coastal Science Campus, some of the facilities that help with achieving this goal are the Joseph M. Long Marine Laboratory and its Seymour Marine Discovery Center, as well as the Coastal Biology Building that opened its doors in 2017.

The Coastal Biology Building is an impressive 40,000-square foot building designed by EHDD Architecture.  It features various laboratories and offices to support both faculty and research. The building is equipped with a 125-foot seminar room, analytical labs, and a natural running seawater laboratory.  

When designing the surrounding landscape, landscape architects Joni L. Janecki & Associates (JLJA) were careful to consider the substantial impact this project could have on the fragile ecosystem surrounding the project.

GraniteCrete was uniquely qualified to meet these concerns while offering a sustainable and lasting solution.  JLJA chose GraniteCrete as a paving solution, and pushed for its inclusion for an 8-foot-wide walkway surrounding the Coastal Biology Building.  The aesthetics of the walkway add to the natural beauty of the campus and the surrounding area.

Installation of the walkway was completed by Graniterock Construction Division. The ease of installation and quality of GraniteCrete’s Admixture was recognized by Graniterock installers: “Everyone loves it. It really holds up well.”

GraniteCrete is proud to partner with fellow sustainable organizations such as the UCSC Coastal Science Campus, as they prioritize positive environmental practices.

GraniteCrete permeable paving pathway alongside the blue whale skeleton at UC Santa Cruz.
“Ms. Blue” is a blue whale skeleton at UC Santa Cruz; it’s one of the largest skeletons of any kind, displayed anywhere in the world! 

Mia’s Dream Come True: All Abilities Playground

Daniel Vasquez and Emelyn Lacayo had an uncomplicated dream: The creation of an ultra-accessible and inclusive playground where their daughter Mia—and people of “all ages and abilities”—could play and enjoy the outdoors.

Clockwise from top-left: Daniel’s sketch; the playground under construction; the airplane and water tower; the entrance to the playground.

From the time she was born at just 33 weeks, Mia has been a fighter.  Weighing just over two pounds at birth, she spent 100 days in the NICU and left the hospital weighing just five pounds.  Facing a host of health issues, doctors told her parents she likely wouldn’t live to see her first birthday, but Mia defied the odds.

As she’s grown, she’s developed a love for visiting parks and enjoying the outdoors.  Since she is unable to walk, her parents used to take her to the nearest accessible playground in Palo Alto whenever possible.  Due to the distance, traffic, and Mia’s needs, a trip to this playground would often be an all-day excursion.

In 2016, when Mia was eight-years-old, Daniel was inspired to sketch a design for an accessible playground that would be a little closer to their home in Hayward.  After securing funds from the Make-a-Wish foundation to help make this playground a reality, Daniel and Emelyn approached the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District Foundation (HARD Foundation) for additional support.  With the foundation’s assistance, what had once been a humble sketch soon morphed into a formal set of plans.  Two years later, ground broke on the playground and it was completed in 2020.

Christened Mia’s Dream Come True: All Abilities Playground, the playground features play areas modeled after notable places in Hayward.  Among these are:

  • A firetruck donated by the Hayward Fire Department that has been refurbished into a wheelchair-accessible play structure
  • A large airplane structure for the Hayward Executive Airport that has a wheelchair-accessible swing set hanging from its wings
  • A water tower

As a complement to these accessible play structures,  the ADA-accessible paving material GraniteCrete is used throughout the playground.  We are thrilled to play a part in helping people of all ages and abilities enjoy this wonderful and inclusive playground for years to come.