Almanac

Viewpoint - August 10, 2011

Guest opinion: A better option for Stanford trail money

by Lennie Roberts

As noted in the Almanac's editorial last week, "Is third time a charm for Stanford trail?" the thorny issue of "fixing" the sidewalk/trail along Alpine Road may have a sensible resolution that will benefit many more people than Stanford's original proposal, which was a classic case of overkill.

The first step would be for the Board of Supervisors to reiterate their endorsement of a regional trails grants program. This would ensure use of all the $10.4 million that Stanford has offered as mitigation for loss of recreational opportunities due to campus expansion.

A regional trails grant, as outlined by San Mateo County Parks Director Dave Holland in 2007, would enable the full $10.4 million to be spent on several badly needed trail projects in our area.

In addition to the Lower Alpine Road trail, one deserving candidate is restoring Upper Alpine Trail, which was damaged by landslides over a decade ago. This would provide a safe way for people to walk, run, bicycle or ride horses up to Skyline away from curvy, dangerous La Honda, Old La Honda, and/or Page Mill roads.

Another candidate is building a new trail paralleling Arastradero Road between Alpine and Page Mill Roads, where walkers, runners, cyclists, and equestrians would finally be able to traverse safely. While this trail is across the creek in Santa Clara County, many residents of Portola Valley and unincorporated San Mateo County as well as Stanford and throughout the region would benefit.

A third candidate is restoring the Lower Alpine Road bike/pedestrian trail/sidewalk in a more modest, cost-effective way than Stanford's original overblown design, which drew fierce opposition five years ago.

Ladera residents and businesses were rightfully concerned that the expanded 12-foot-wide, two-way trail with 2-foot shoulders on either side required moving Alpine Road into the landscaped median at the Ladera Shopper, and closer to Aliso Way as well as destroying many oaks and the rural ambience of the existing trail.

Residents of Stanford Weekend Acres were alarmed at the safety hazards caused by increased numbers of trail users of varying skills and speeds on an over-wide trail crossing many driveways and streets. An urban standard supersize trail would give users a false sense of security as speeding vehicles in this area regularly veer off the road and crash into railings and fences near Bishop Lane — most recently on Aug. 2.

Environmental groups were vehemently opposed to the destruction of sensitive creek and riparian habitats by the proposed armoring of the creek bank in many places, and the unnecessary massive, costly grading into the steep hillside opposite Bishop and Wildwood.

Over 1,500 people signed a petition at the time, opposing the costly overkill sidewalk expansion as inappropriate mitigation for loss of recreational opportunities caused by Stanford's campus development.

It should be obvious that San Mateo and Santa Clara counties have a shared interest in providing safe, cost effective facilities for walkers, runners, cyclists, and equestrians. In order to maximize the benefits to all these users, San Mateo first needs to reject the Stanford offer as it currently only allows the proffered $10.4 million to be spent on the three-mile stretch of the existing Alpine Trail in the county unincorporated area.

The two counties then need to work collaboratively to provide the greatest benefit to the most users through the innovative regional trails grants program.

San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley, and Liz Kniss of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, represent the communities around Stanford, and have a great opportunity to resolve this protracted standoff.

A less elaborate, environmentally friendly, Lower Alpine Trail will make it possible to fund other beneficial trail improvements in the region, such as Upper Alpine and Arastradero, and could provide maintenance funding as well. This regional approach would better comply with Stanford's obligation under the General Use Permit to provide true recreational trails.

Lennie Roberts is the San Mateo County legislative advocate for the Committee for Green Foothills.

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