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This is the second post in a series about Pillar Point Bluff. Read the first post here.
POST’s involvement with Pillar Point Bluff didn’t end when we saved the land from development and transferred it to San Mateo County.
Before POST purchased Pillar Point Bluff, it was owned by a variety of absentee landowners. Despite its private ownership, the Bluff was frequented by local hikers, bikers, and dog-walkers. In addition to the fact that these well-intentioned visitors were illegally trespassing, years of unmanaged public use had led to improvised trails that were causing dangerous erosion of the Bluff and disturbing sensitive wildlife habitat and plant communities.
After POST acquired the first parcel of the Bluff in 2004, we could begin stewarding it back to health. First, we held a public meeting to get feedback from locals. We learned a lot about what our community wants (dog access!) and needs (assurance that the land will be carefully stewarded and open to recreation). With the public, we decided to put the trail’s entrance on Airport Road to minimize traffic in the nearby residential areas. We also secured funding that made this work possible, thanks to generous gifts from the California Coastal Conservancy and the Lauer Family. Al and Kathy Lauer donated in memory of their daughter Jean, a lifelong conservationist and previous POST staffer, to fund this project.
Next, we began constructing the section of California Coastal Trail that runs along the Bluff. The new trail is situated in the perfect place to maximize views while minimizing erosion risk and habitat impact (especially to the seals living on the beaches of the protected Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, which sits just below the Bluff). POST also removed the extensive communities of invasive pampas grass in the area and nurtured the regrowth of native scrub in its place.
When it was restored to health, the Bluff was ready to be transferred to San Mateo County Parks and opened to the public. Since 2011, the family-friendly trail has been open to hikers, bikers, and dogs on leash.
Pillar Point Bluff exemplifies the multi-dimensional work that POST does to protect and care for our beloved local landscapes. Throughout the process, we have learned a lot about three P’s: public input, and partnerships, and patience. After 11 years, we still have work to do at Pillar Point!
Our experience building the trail on Pillar Point Bluff prepared us well to build and manage the Cowell-Purisima Trail, another section of the California Coastal Trail that POST completed in 2011 and still manages. It runs through POST-protected Cowell Ranch for 3.6 miles just south of Half Moon Bay, only a few miles from Pillar Point. With these great experiences behind us, we’re looking forward to extending the Coastal Trail through the last parcel of the Bluff. Someday soon, the Trail will reach all the way to Pillar Point Harbor, and the whole blufftop will be part of Pillar Point Bluff County Park. Stay tuned!
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 76,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.