Oct 02

Mt Umunhum cleanup

For more information and to participate in the public comments

The Mid Peninsula Regional Open Space District has secured over $7 million dollars to plan for and clean up the former air force base on top of Mount Umunhum. There are numerous contaminants at the former base ranging from petrochemicals, asbestos and lead paint. The money must be spent within a year of receiving it, so MROSD is rushing through the planning process. MROSD plans to have the final hearing for approval of the site plan by August 2011 with the tentative plan adopted as early as February 2011. In addition to the $7m, MROSD will need to find an additional $4m to provide public access.
The mountain is easily spotted from the Sillicon Valley as the 80 foot high, 64 foot wide concrete radar tower is clearly visible. MROSD bought the peak from the Air Force in 1986, and many structures remain. The peak holds cultural significance to many veterans, current inhabitants of silicon valley as well as local native people. Mt Umunhum is located inside the Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve which covers more than 17,000 acres of forests, grasslands and chaparral in the Santa Cruz Mountains and hosts a rich diversity of wildlife.

MROSD has put forth 3 basic themes which build on one another. The first theme involves removing all buildings, including the �cube�, fixing the road to the top and putting in some trails around the top. There may only be weekend access. The second theme included keeping the �cube�, allowing access 7 days a week, and a backpacker�s camp. The third theme added interpretive features. MROSD hoped the public would consider these options within the framework of MROSD�s mission statement which is to preserve, protect and restore open space and provide environmentally sensitive public access.
At The first public workshop held in September, 2010, MROSD was only interested in getting visceral responses to the themes. It was clear that the initial emotional response was to keep the �cube�. Most people were also for 7 day a week access, and it was not clear to me how important interpretive and historical signage would be to visitors. In speaking with Senior Planner Meredith Manning, I found out a number of interesting facts.

The price to keep the cube, without public access inside, is about the same as to remove it. These figures do not consider any ongoing maintenance that may be required. While the cube sits on bedrock, the bedrock is cracked, and a very expensive retaining wall needs to be built to support a structure built to hold an 84 ton radar dish. Access inside the cube or on top of the cube increases the costs by a factor of ten. To resurface the 5 mile road to the top will cost $2m alone.

Prior to my conversation with Ms Manning, I was in favor of preserving the cube for its historical significance, despite the fact that the Government has determined that it is not significant enough to be put onto a historical register. After my conversation, taking the mission of MROSD into account, I feel that long term it is a waste to keep the structure. I�d rather see long term monies go towards keeping the road to the top open to bicycles 7 days a week.

For more information and to participate in the public comments