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May 11, 2013

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If one blindly accepts urbanized development, one deserves the degraded, more expensive, more unsustainable world that results. But why should everyone else suffer the foibles of the urban mind-set?

There is no need for an accessible trail for wheelchairs or other devices to be as wide as a road or paved. The best whole-access trails are the ones that allow the disabled to have the same experience as the abled--to "touch the wildflowers," so to speak. Why would the disabled want some of the very features of the CCT to be accessed to be bulldozed and paved? The ones I have met don't. Any number of pavement-free, natural-surface, all-weather trail building methods are available.

Another point. Hard surfaces do damage to locomoting human bodies, especially joints. Our anatomical apparatus did not evolve on pavement. When you get a little older and arthritis sets in here and there, you become aware of this. I can walk all day on natural surfaces but can only make it a few miles on paved ones. They don't pave athletic tracks for a reason. When a trail for the purpose of access to something is paved, it reduces the quality of the surface for hikers, walkers, and runners in addition to doing mechanical damage to the environment. If a trail is stated to be primarily for hikers and walkers, it is stupid to pave it. Of course, "stupid" is not the problem in most cases; the problem is spending as much money as some agency can get away with.

The net result in what is being done with the CCT in San Mateo County is spending an order of magnitude (or more) too much money on an environmentally damaging, experience-wrecking road greenwashed as a "trail."

Everyone wants a coastal trail, but it's in no one's interest to pave the coast or clearcut to do so.

Dear Mr. May: With all due respect, the Appalachian Trail was conceived nearly a century ago. If it had been conceived more recently, it would be (as you've said) much less about feet and dirt and more about wheels and pavement, and undoubtedly it would not stretch for 1,400-plus miles.

I've walked 50 miles of the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina through the tree line that has been killed by acid rain. Parts of it were paved, mostly near connecting roads and parking lots to provide at least some sort of access to those with mobility issues.

I couldn't do that 50 miles today because of arthritis. If I want to go for a jaunt, I need mechanical help, which I found in an all-terrain mobility scooter (I've named it BORIS because of the blue-collar nature of his work hauling me to and fro), which I've taken on several local trails, including up to the top of Mori Point and throughout Golden Gate Park, where I used to love to ride my mountain bike back in the 1980s before mountain biking became a thing.

If and when Mr. Colt's property is purchased for a trail, I know I would love to have it be accessible. Not at the cost of the character of the hill, though. That would not be acceptable to anyone, I feel, nor should it be.

BTW, I enjoy reading your posts here on Riptide. They are always full of thoughtfulness and passion.

All of this is being done in the name of the California Coastal Trail (CCT), and represents a gross corruption of what the CCT is supposed to be--a kind of corruption already acted out in Pacifica on the paved trail between Rockaway and Linda Mar. Once again (broken record clicking away here), the urban mind-set of San Mateo County and its coastal cities is producing a project directly contrary to Prop. 20, the Coastal Act of 1976, SB 908 that set up the quest for completing the CCT, and so on.

In short, there is no requirement for the CCT, itself, to be anything but a walking/hiking trail--no requirements for pavement, bicycles, ADA compliance, etc. All the (horribly expensive) urban development is finagled in to increase the cost of the trail (and thus increase the administrative 10 percent the county or city gets for being lead agency), increase the amount of money flowing through the state-grant-giving Coastal Conservancy or other state agencies granting recreational funds (thus justifying job positions and salaries in those agencies), increase the amount of money going to the county's or the city's road construction company buddies for building the so-called "trail" (if it is built with heavy equipment, it isn't a real trail), and appeal to select urban political constituencies who prefer wheels and pavement to feet and natural surfaces.

The CCT was originally conceived and initially promoted to be a non-destructive Oregon-to-Mexico hiking trail as close to the shore as possible (thus providing lateral access to the shoreline for the public as called for in Prop. 20 and the Coastal Act). It was to rival other significant long-distance trails in the U.S. such as the Appalachian Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail--all hiking trails and unpaved. All that has been turned on its head as the agencies and local politicians assumed control of it, ignored the guidelines for the kind of trail it is supposed to be and where it is supposed to go, and went for the biggest urbanized road they could put over on a gullible public by greenwashing their schemes. Many millions of dollars have been wasted in recent years on the northern and central San Mateo County coast to construct short segments of an urban CCT road, where a few thousand or tens of thousands of dollars would have provided a less destructive, more sensitive trail with better lateral access to coastal features for the public.

The ridiculous CCT project on the former highway now abandoned with the opening of the underground freeway is part of the stupidity. Millions of dollars are being spent on it to make it even less natural. Just south of that project will be another CCT road built into Green Valley for something like $1.2 million--taking out more native vegetation that has been reclaiming the valley since 1937. Then they want to bash a road through McNee Ranch State Park on the Grey Whale Cove Trail (this was actually part of the old Colma Road at one time a century ago, but you wouldn't know that from the modest trail there now). And so on down the coast. They bulldozed a road through Fitzgerald Marine Reserve away from the blufftop where the CCT is supposed to be, are going to spend $400,000 for 400 feet of "trail" at Surfer's Beach where there is already an entirely suitable trail except for a 15- or 20-foot dip, spent most of a million dollars on a metal bridge and asphalt paved road across Mirada Surf West, where there was already a suitable walking trail along the edge of the bluff, paved a road most of the length of the City of Half Moon Bay away from the ocean, and (for something in the neighborhood of $3 million) bulldozed a 1.8-mile road and put in three 5-ton-capacity metal bridges over an existing, usable farm road between fields and the bluff edge, and covered it with up to a foot of crushed rock on the Cowell Ranch just south of Half Moon Bay. This rant is just for context of what you are a part of for the stretch of misplaced CCT between Linda Mar and the tunnels. Yes, eminent domain is being discussed for the private property involved--shades of the bypass project on Shamrock Ranch.

Is the "concrete and clearcut" proposal posted somewhere for comment?

I was excited about turning old Highway 1 into a trail, but I'm not at all excited about concrete and clearcut of the hillsides.

Not only was the Tribune scooped on this by its parent newspaper, it didn't even have enough time to reprint it in this week's edition.

I doubt the ADA requirements of the trail will be ditched to accommodate a sale. But that doesn't mean the ADA-compliant switchbacks can't be moved or redesigned to retain the visual integrity of the Pedro Point Headlands hillside. The current design is undoubtedly a first draft, a visual aid. And since the project has yet to go through a permit process that would include a Coastal Development Permit, I'm sure all the design issues will be modified.

That leaves the misguided behavior of the city in negotiating this deal. The offer of $60,000 an acre was ridiculously low. Why, even the city's own fact sheets, approved by council vote, list estimated costs per acre for park land, trails, and other public spaces at $150,000 an acre. Sadly, our city, not Mr. Colt, has walked away from the table.

The reporter spoke to a lot of folks during the tunnel ceremonies about the trail and no doubt received a rather biased version of details. To his credit, he called both Dave Colt and City Manager Steve Rhodes. But the credit stops there.

There is a lot more to this story.

The whole switchback thing is for ADA compliance, right? It's gross that it couldn't be a REAL nature trail. Isn't that the whole idea, to get walking paths in NATURE? If we wanna walk between concrete barriers on a paved switchback, let's just go to Lombard street in SF. I think Dave should use his bargaining power to get a way less invasive approach. The money they save not building all of that could give Dave a fair price. Win-win, unless you're in a wheelchair. Hard to make it work for everyone, but I can't see paving the world.

I would be very interested to know who called the Times reporter and was lucky enough to get a story at all. One knows not to call the local paper.

If the reporter couldn't get comment from either side, that's not surprising, seeing as it's a local property grab by local government. Mustn't talk about that!

It sure appeared to be a "done deal" from reading the October 2011 City Council staff report and related minutes about this property.

Todd, would you happen to have a link to the trail design handy?

You would not know anything that was discussed with this transaction because it was done in closed session.

This article, for whatever reason, has all the makings of a hit piece: Dave Colt is not stalling. The city has offered him a ridiculously low price for his property, and to top it off, he has been threatened and harassed by our city for refusing to bow to City Manager Steve Rhodes' wishes.

There is a wholly separate issue of the trail's design, which includes removing virtually every single tree in the area. The design also includes cliffside retaining walls to accommodate the switchbacks, so the Pedro Point hillside would be denuded of vegetation and decorated with a zigzag of concrete wedges that scale the hillside in place of trees.

Riptide's headline should read: LOCAL LANDOWNER SANDBAGGED FOR SAVING HILLSIDE

There is a lot to this story that has not been touched on in this article. But as the proverb says, "If you don't read the news, you are uninformed. If you do read the news, you are misinformed."

If Dave were offered a fair price, he would sell in a heartbeat. But we as residents need to make sure the preliminary concrete-and-clearcut trail design does not get made.

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