When the Bay to Sea Trail is complete — about 15 years from now — it will have been half a century in the making. In the 1970s, the founders of POST and the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District first identified this expansive trail as a distant, aspirational goal. This led to decades of slow-but-steady work to identify and protect key parcels of land from the Bay to Skyline Ridge and running west to the coast.
Among the many wonders of the Bay to Sea Trail is the interconnectedness it will nurture. In addition to improving local ecology and habitat connectivity through active land protection, this project has the potential to bring health and wellness opportunities to communities across the region. Partnerships — with agencies, organizations, local residents, researchers and others — are at the heart of this complex work. As we build and strengthen alliances and pool our collective expertise, we hope to create a trail experience that’s a win-win for all involved.
In 2019, we put our commitment to building this trail in writing. Alongside 10 other agencies and organizations, we signed a letter of intent to bring this long-held dream to fruition. Our coalition resolved to plan, develop and manage a continuous 40-mile trail that would span the Peninsula. POST plays a leading role, ensuring we all remain aligned and on-track. (Ultimately, different organizations will manage various segments of the trail’s land and will lead elements of the process over time.)
To shepherd our next phase of work, we recently engaged PlaceWorks, a planning and design firm with deep Bay Area ties. They will help us assess opportunities and constraints for routing the trail and develop an extensive public engagement process to deepen our understanding of what neighboring communities will want to see as the project comes to life.
Some of the questions we’re exploring are logistical. Where will people access the trail? What infrastructure — such as parking lots, bus routes or bathrooms — will invite visitors of all ages, incomes, interests and abilities? Others are more relational. We know that residents in the trail’s vicinity are best positioned to define their community’s unique needs. How do we solicit their crucial input? How do we begin to identify and collaborate with local champions and community-based organizations whose knowledge and insights can inform our work?
The trail, by design, will invite a range of activities. Endurance runners might challenge themselves to complete the route in one go. Local families might gather at a picnic area or frequent a small section of trail near home. Hikers, strollers, birdwatchers, bikers, and equestrians will be among those who explore bayside, mountain and seaside segments.
We are eager to build opportunities for both seasoned outdoorspeople and first-time visitors — particularly those with less access to open spaces further afield — to find their place among the route’s many trails and open spaces. Once equipped with community input, we’ll be ready to design the amenities that will best meet local needs. One promising idea is to create a series of pocket parks along the trail— compact plots that give city dwellers a reprieve amid nature. There, neighboring residents in Redwood City and East Palo Alto could enjoy playgrounds, community gardens, groves of trees and outdoor eating areas.
Our next challenge is to create a community engagement framework for the next two years. The PlaceWorks team is well suited to guide us, as they have ample experience working alongside residents whose voices have not historically been included in trail planning conversations. We are energized at the chance to weave more connected networks — of trails and of people — that will strengthen our region and bring the benefits of nature to all.
Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 86,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more