Black Diamond Mines


My mother’s father was born in the town of Brentwood, a few miles from the Black Diamond Mines, back in 1883. He was a terrific guy and a fabulous storyteller and some of his stories, I suspect, were even true. When I was young, he used to regale me with tales of life in California a century and more ago. I loved to listen to his yarns, and he helped spark in me a life-long interest in history. And so I think of him every time I visit Black Diamond Mines, part of the magnificent East Bay Regional Parks District, the largest and most complex local park system in the world. The East Bay Parks District includes about one-hundred thousand acres of wild, historic and recreational land in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, and Black Diamond is one of its crown jewels. When my grandfather was growing up nearby, coal mines were open there and thousands of people lived near their gates. Maybe my grandfather stopped by. I like to think he knew some of the miners and their families, but I’ll never know. He passed away forty years ago. The mines have long been closed and the miners and their communities have faded from the landscape. Much has been forgotten about the region’s legacy of coal and later sand mining, but the Park’s staff and volunteers have done an extraordinary job helping us remember. I’m sure my grandfather would appreciate the stories they have to tell. He might just embellish them a little.

The Black Diamond Mines are still open and as fascinating as ever. Our hat is off to John Waters for all his great work on behalf of the mines over the years. John retired in January of 2007.

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