Long-time Community Advocate Pete Wilson Passes in November

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(Courtesy of Wilson Family)
A 58-year Orinda resident, Pete Wilson was instrumental in preserving Gateway Valley and establishing the Moraga Orinda Fire District. A passionate community activist, he passed away at his Lost Valley home surrounded by family and the open space he loved.

     A force of nature, community activist and environmentalist, Peter Sedgwick Wilson passed away Nov. 1 at his home in Lost Valley surrounded by family.
     An Orinda resident for the past 58 years, Pete was passionate about preserving Gateway Valley when the first developer, Pacific New Wave, proposed a large residential housing development, hotel and golf course for the 978-acre working cattle ranch.
     The original proposal would have impacted a critical wildlife corridor, including putting at risk two endangered species – the Alameda whipsnake and the red-legged frog. It also would have affected acres of wetlands and perennial streams.
     To prevent this from happening, Pete became ever vigilant and even sued the City of Orinda under the Brown Act for being denied the right to speak on Gateway at three closed Planning Commission meetings.
     Pete and his wife Amelia (Mimi) helped establish Save Open Space Gateway Valley, which joined with the Sierra Club and Golden Gate Audubon to fight the development. Their successful efforts resulted in a much smaller development and acres of open space for wildlife and hiking trails.
     “Pete and Amelia were the driving force to save Gateway Valley,” said long-time Orinda resident and former Mayor Laura Abrams. “People who live in the cul-de-sacs have them to thank for their privacy. If the valley had been totally developed, traffic would be going through the residential neighborhoods to get to Moraga Way.”
     Always looking for ways to better his community, Pete also helped establish the Moraga-Orinda Fire District and served on the board for 12 years.
     “Pete and Mimi’s legacy to Orinda is Gateway Valley,” said retiring City Councilmember Amy Worth. “And they stayed engaged in their community for a long time. Not that long ago I was talking with them about traffic calming measures for Lost Valley.”
     Born in New York City in 1935, Pete graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, CT, before attending the Coast Guard Academy, graduating as a lieutenant and serving primarily in the North Atlantic Ocean.
     Joining the insurance industry, Pete moved to Southern California in 1963 before coming to the Bay Area in 1964.
     When not advocating for Orinda, Pete loved to travel, and he and Mimi visited close to 100 countries.
     “What can I say about my best buddy and co-traveler? In the 49 years of our marriage, we negotiated the wilds of Africa’s Timbuktu, plunged ocean depths, Orinda politics, a 25-year environmental tangle, supported East Bay Regional Parks District and jumped through endless government hoops to establish MOFD. It was a terrific and satisfying journey for us,” said Mimi Wilson.
     Pete is survived by Mimi, daughter Katherine Wilson Dureault, stepdaughters Chrys Randolph and Mary Lou Best, four grandchildren and three great grandchildren. A celebration of life was held at the Moraga Valley Presbyterian Church Nov. 11.
     Donations in Pete’s honor can be made to Rescue One Foundation (www.rescue1foundation.org) or Save Mt. Diablo (https://savemountdiablo.org).

Sally Hogarty can be reached at sally@theorindanews.com.

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