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Oakland Zoo California Trail

The California Trail project at the Oakland Zoo doubles the size of the zoo complex to roughly 100 acres and furthers the zoo’s mission of conservation, education and research with a focus on native Californian animals – most of whose species disappeared from this state’s landscape long ago. More than 20 years in the making, the $72 million project was a culmination of community collaboration and the dogged perseverance of the Conservation Society of California. The project includes 26 structures on 22 acres of land and a European-style, aerial gondola system– the first of its kind in California. 

Eight native endangered and threatened California species (gray wolf, grizzly bear, black bear, mountain lion, bison, jaguar, California condor, and bald eagle) will live amid rolling hills and oaks, 650 feet above sea level with a view of the SF Bay Area. Visitors reach the hilltop California Trail setting via a four minute gondola ride. The California Trail includes The Landing Café, an overnight campground, a treetop boardwalk, Bay vistas spanning seven counties, and a playground laid out to reflect the ecological zones of California. Inside the California Conservation Habitarium, children will use hands-on learning to explore settings replicating mountains, deserts, redwoods, estuaries, and even an urban home.

Overaa’s portion of the work was $37M and included infrastructure and buildings. The project was completed ahead of schedule and under budget with the help of local labor, Oakland small (10%) and large (20%) business concerns. To help reach target budget and make the project a reality, Overaa worked with designers and trade partners, to redesign the HVAC system, provide post-tensioned beams in lieu of conventional concrete deck at the Landing Cafe and substitute Mechanically Stabilized Earth (MSE) retaining walls (a stacked block with a grid tie-back system) in lieu of cast-in-place concrete for many of the walls, some of which were 30’ tall. In all, Overaa’s preconstruction efforts saved more than $3M.

During construction, Overaa provided erosion and sediment control measures, and a temporary sound wall was installed to reduce impact of construction activity on the nearby community and wildlife. To preserve the wildlife corridor, a “wildlife exclusion fence” surrounding the construction site was built with cone shaped outlets designed to help small animals escape the construction zone, while preventing new animals from entering the site.