Dec 04

La Honda Creek OSP Draft Master Plan Open House Report

Mountain Bikers were out in force to object to the near total ban on bikes in La Honda Creek Open Space Preserve. Good Job! Thanks Everyone who came out to The Mountain Terrace owned by our friends at Alice’s Restaurant.

Francois was kind enough to show a few pictures for those of you who could not make it MTBR.

Following is more or less how my evening went.I began by talking briefly with Matthew Freeman, planning manager. I asked how this draft master plan came to be. He said that the planners worked out a draft based on the input from public meetings, ran it by the ad hoc committee of the board of directors consisting of Larry Hassett, Mary Davey and Curt Riffle. The ad hoc committee iterated a few times with planning to come up with the current version of the master plan, which only would permit cycling from bear gulch rd to the red barn when other adjacent alignments of the ridge trail opens up to bikes. Matt is a really good guy, and while he never lets on exactly what his perspective is, I am confident that he believes there is not much point in protecting open space unless you let people use it. I am fairly confident that a large number of the staff are pro bike, or even mountain bikers themselves.

Then I talked with Rudy Jergenson, the PR manager for the District. I have to give this guy more credit than I have in the past. I know we talked about mountain bikers self monitoring. I suggested it would be easier for us to self monitor if we had more information on unauthorized trail building and reopening. I told him that mountain bikers may be willing to self monitor unauthorized trail building and impolite riders, but night riding and speeding would be a hard sell. We really need to do something about cyclists re-opening closed trails and building unauthorized ones. I said it might be worthwhile to market trails patrols outside of the MROSD web site and the District’s newsletter, as this is preaching to the choir. He pulled out a pen and a scrap of paper from his pocket and wrote it all down. I told him which reporters I had spoken to to try to get them to write some stories about the LHC Master plan. I told him I was trying to find some time to write some editorials. You can write an editorial too . . . Half Moon Bay Review? SF Chronicle? The Palo Alto Daily? Mountian View Voice? The pen is mightier than the McLeod?

Next, I stopped by the resource management station, hosted by planner Stella. Sorry Stella I didn’t catch or remember your last name – Cousins? We had a discussion about what “resource management” means. It includes cultural, historical and environmental resources, as well as trails. In many ways I am relieved that resource management includes trails and recreation, as the District are currently searching for a new General Manager who will be more focused on “Resource Management”. Craig Britton has been amazing at his ability to acquire lands, but with more land the focus needs to move towards management. Hopefully this is a good thing.

In general the evening was a great opportunity for networking within the bike community. I talked at length with Thai from Mere Mortals, Janet from Velo Girls and Trent from Which? . . . I can’t seem to remember. Bern Smith and Joel Gartland of the Bay Area Ridge Trail were there. We talked about the (un)likelyhood of a ridge trail alignment by the red barn. Bern and Mike Williams (District Real Estate) want to see if the audobon will give the lands to San Mateo County Parks who, blieve it or not, would be more likely to open it to bikes as there is not a deed restriction against them. I also talked to Brian Simon and Dave Crane from La Honda who are tremendously passionate about getting some local trails open to bikes. Brian and Dave are considering forming a coast-side trails council that would be inclusive of cyclists, equestrians and dog walkers. This is a great approach that I support. Much of these talks concerned coalition building and self monitoring of mountain bikers, for mountain bikers. I pointed many mountain bikers to Larry Hassett and Mary Davey who need some convincing.

Wrote stuff down on the boards. I wrote stuff like:
– build a trails network open to all users near the town of La Honda.
– Move the calving area at Sears Ranch, which is the primary reason why the District objects to trails near La Honda. This is crazy anyway as there are several acres to the West of the fire road. Sears Ranch East of the Road.
– Open the Ridge Trail Alignment immediately
– Open Bear Gulch Rd to the Elementary School to bikes. This is a likely Ridge Trail Alignment, and it would be nice to have multiuse connectors to the Ridge Trail from “urban centers” if you can call La Honda that.

I spoke with Mary Davey briefly. She apparently reads this list, or someone forwards what we write about her. She noted that I had written that she is anti-bike. It sure seems that way judging by her voting record. She asked me to convince her to change her mind about bikes in LHC. I was caught a bit off guard, and I said I didn’t think I would be able to change her mind. I told her that mountain biking was environmentally friendly, wanted by the public and would be a bad PR blunder by the District considering the tenuous relationship between the District and coast side residents. I asked her for some trails near the elementary school. She said it was a calving area. How much room do you need to have a calf? In general I got the impression that she was feeling pretty defensive.

I talked with Curt Riffle a bit. he asked what outcomes he would like to see from this meeting. I was blown away. I barely knew what to say. It sounds like there is some likelihood of a meeting to do some negotiating. I suggested creating a few master plan options, and asking the public what they support, rather than having just one master plan. Sorry Matt and Ana!

Lastly, I talked with David Sanguinetti. I am not sure what he does. He might be in charge of all the maintenance and ranger staff in the skyline region (Saratoga Gap to Purissima Creek OSP). He is a big cheese for sure. He seemed pretty defensive as well. I asked him about the costs of opening more trails to bikes. I asked him more or less if there was a formula such as for each mile of trails open to bikes, you need to hire n ranger. He got pretty excited. He is upset about frequent re-opening and building of unauthorized trails. He was so embittered I was almost sorry I asked. This has got to be a big thorn in his side. He and probably his staff find it troublesome to have to time and again re-close trails that they closed in El Corte de Madera Open Space Preserve because people re opened them. Nobody likes to be told to move a pile of rocks from left to right. and when you are done with that move them from right to left. It is easy for me to understand his frustrations. He said that when his staff finds unauthorized trails they hire the California Conservation Corps to come out and restore them, which is moderately costly. He was so upset I could not muster the courage to ask him to legalize the trails. He also he was working on my request to quantify my request for statistics on how many resources they are spending on managing mountain biking.

I am still hopeful that some trails will open in this preserve to bikes, but I believe it is largely contingent on us being willing to work within the system and stop creating work for them by opening trails that they go back and close. This show is not over. If you have read this much you must be motivated enough to supply a few comments to the district. Here are some things you can send to lahondamasterplan@openspace.org or by postal mail to Ana Ruiz, Project Manager MROSD. 330 Distel Circle. Los Altos, CA 94022

1) Open all proposed trails to bikes! At least open a regional trail connector from Bear Gulch Road to La Honda Elementary as a designated segment of the Bay Area Ridge Trail immediately.
1a) Provide bike access to The Big Tree.
2) While Sears Ranch is a calving area, there is probably several hundred acres West of the fire road heading North from the elementary school that would be appropriate for a possibly fenced multiuse trail network where dogs might be allowed, at least not during calving season. Please consider building at least ten miles of trails in this area.
3) Work with ROMP and other organizations to encourage mountain bikers to be more self monitoring. Form a committee to work with the bike community to provide information about incidents including, time and location, and ways that we can work together.
4) Propose alternate draft master plans and allow the public to comment on them. This has been done for the Salt Ponds Restoration Project.
5) Write DRAFT on your draft master plan documents. . . or has this already been decided?

What else should we be working for? What are we willing to do to get it?