County parks, nonprofit Peninsula Open Space District partner to link coastal trail

Originally published on October 8, 2016 by the San Mateo Daily Journal.

Pristine coastal bluff top views overlooking one of the state’s most prominent marine reserves will be preserved for the public in perpetuity, through a public-private partnership.

This week, the county Board of Supervisors accepted another 21 acres of Pillar Point bluff courtesy of the Peninsula Open Space District, or POST.

The nonprofit bought the former private property last year as part of its ongoing work to transfer these unique coastal lands to the county. The goal has been to complete the beloved California Coastal Trail, and this segment will help preserve access to the bluff tops near the infamous Mavericks surf break.

“From vision to uninterrupted bluff trail, it has taken nearly four decades to make what was once a patchwork of private properties into one of the most beautiful segments of the 1,200-mile California Coastal Trail. First envisioned back in 1976 by San Mateo County Parks, POST could not be happier to have completed the transition of this property at long last for all to enjoy,” POST spokeswoman Marti Tedesco said in an email.

The undeveloped land overlooks the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve where basking sea lions, whales and birds can frequently be seen. The property is nestled against the cliff’s edge and bordered by a privately owned manufactured home community to the east. Informal trails winding along the cliffs have long been used by the public. The recent property acquisition ensures the site will remain open for passive recreation.

“It’s fantastic,” said county Parks Department Director Marlene Finley. “It allows the entire bluff to be managed for recreational access and to protect and preserve the wonderful habitat.”

Tedesco noted the property offers an array of resources such as “stunning views of the Pacific and Montara Mountain. A wide and accessible path with a gentle grade. All of this plus sea lions, salamanders, red-legged frogs, raptors, tide pool dwellers, surfers, dog walking, fresh air and whale watching — all are possible on Pillar Point.”

Immediately north of Half Moon Bay near the harbor, the recent land gift fills a geographic gap. The county already owns about 140 acres of land on either side of POST’s recently donated 21 acres. These earlier parcels were also gifted by POST, which had begun acquiring the land as early as 2004.

“We have worked alongside the county since their original vision in the 1970s to do what we can to complete the Coastal Trail through San Mateo County. Each time we complete another link in the trail it is a victory for us both, with each organization playing a different and crucial part in the process,” Tedesco said.

Both she and Finley were pleased to note their collaborative work is supported by other state agencies such the California Coastal Conservancy and the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Finley said both POST and the county have “our missions and our funding and we’re able to work together to leverage those for public benefit.”

But their work is far from over. The county is currently hoping to secure state permits for trail improvements, which may include pulling the path further from the cliff’s perilous edge. Over the years, visitors have created informal trails and the county is now considering minimal fencing to keep people safe as well as informational signs, Finley said.

“Bordered on one side by the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve and gorgeous mountain ridges and farmland on the other, the Pillar Point Bluff had been privately owned and used by the public for decades,” Tedesco said. “But erosion and invasive plants plagued what is now one of the most beloved trails in San Mateo County.”

While the organizations enjoy promoting recreation for the public, their work also translates to vital habitat preservation for the plants and animals that call the bluff tops home.

“Through development and invasive species, we’ve been losing that coastal scrub environment along the bluff. This is a great opportunity to continue the good work that POST started in restoring the bluff, and it’s an ongoing job,” Finley said. “It’s an ongoing stewardship.”

[email protected]

(650) 344-5200 ext. 106

About Post

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 78,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more

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