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POST Breaks Ground for New and Improved Trails at Pillar Point Bluff

Two miles of paths, including a portion of the California Coastal Trail, funded by the California Coastal Conservancy

August 13, 2008

Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) broke ground yesterday for new and improved trails at Pillar Point Bluff, a 123-acre property it owns near Moss Beach. Long a popular destination for local joggers, dog-walkers and hikers, the informal network of trails just north of Half Moon Bay is undergoing much-needed restoration thanks to grants from the California Coastal Conservancy and gifts made through the Jean Lauer Memorial Land Protection Fund at POST.

When the trail improvements are complete this fall, two miles of paths lined with native plants and wildflowers will extend across the scenic bluff top, including a portion of the 1,200-mile California Coastal Trail. Two new access points to the property will also be constructed, as well as a wheelchair-accessible trail.

POST purchased the bulk of Pillar Point Bluff from private owners in 2004 for $2.7 million. The acquisition was made in partnership with the California Coastal Conservancy, which contributed $1 million toward the purchase with an eye toward installing a segment of the Coastal Trail. The Conservancy has since contributed another $528,650 to POST to cover the entire cost of trail planning, design and improvements as well as the first year of trail management and continued habitat restoration on the land. Once completed, the new trails will be patrolled by the San Mateo County Parks Department through a management agreement with POST.           

“POST does not typically engage in this kind of trail-building, but when the Coastal Conservancy approached us with a grant to manage the construction of the trail, we knew we could work together to provide this resource for the public,” said POST President Audrey Rust. “We have already been active in restoring wildlife habitat at Pillar Point Bluff, and now that the necessary trail permits have been secured, we can move into the next stage of stewarding this magnificent property, a vital link in the Coastal Trail.”

"With their spectacular views of coastal reefs and the Mavericks wave break, without question these will soon be among the most popular trails on San Mateo County's beautiful coast," said Sam Schuchat, the Coastal Conservancy's executive officer. "We are very grateful to POST for stepping up and making this project possible."

Pillar Point Bluff offers sweeping views of the coast, mountain ridges and farmland. The oceanfront bluff drops 170 feet to the tide pools of San Mateo County's Fitzgerald Marine Reserve below, where seals sun themselves on rocks and pelicans, cormorants and seagulls swoop down, looking for a meal.

The improvements at Pillar Point Bluff include installation of a one-mile portion of the Coastal Trail called the Jean Lauer Trail, which will run along the edge of the bluff. The new trail will be set back a short distance from the existing path, portions of which have already been severely damaged by erosion.

The trail segment is named after the late Jean Lauer, a former land manager for POST who spent four years working for the nonprofit land trust to preserve local open space for public enjoyment. Jean’s parents, Allen and Kathleen Lauer, of Portola Valley, created the Jean Lauer Memorial Land Protection Fund at POST with gifts from family and friends to ensure the permanent protection of Pillar Point Bluff and make the creation of the trail possible. The honor of naming the trail after Jean is especially fitting because, as part of her work, she was one of the first to highlight the need for habitat restoration on the property and help make it a high priority for protection by POST. Additional trails will be located along existing pathways, while others will be realigned or closed to restore wildlife habitat and decrease erosion.

Three years ago, POST began habitat restoration at Pillar Point Bluff by removing pampas grass plants from the site. At the time, approximately 25 acres of the southern portion of the property were infested with pampas grass, originally imported to California as an ornamental garden plant. Since then, POST has removed thousands of pampas grass plants from Pillar Point Bluff, virtually eradicating the highly aggressive, invasive exotic from the property. Without the overwhelming competition for light, moisture and nutrients posed by pampas grass, native plants and animals will once again be able to thrive on the land.

POST hired Go Native, Inc., in Montara, to install the new trails, continue the habitat restoration, and create two new entrances to the property that respect both the privacy of neighbors and the needs of the landscape. These entrances will include a new ten-car parking and staging area and a pit-toilet restroom along Airport Street at the southeast corner of the property, as well as a new walk-in pedestrian entrance next to the Seal Cove neighborhood at the northern edge of the property.

“Pillar Point Bluff has been well-loved but much-used over the years,” said Rust. “These improvements will preserve the beauty of the bluff and its views, protect its rich wildlife habitat, and improve the overall health of the land. It will also make recreation easier and safer by placing designated trails and access points back from crumbling cliffs, so we can keep returning to this place and enjoy it long into the future.”

Throughout construction, the property will remain open to the public, though portions of some trails may be closed to allow contractors to do their work. The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of October.