Dedicated Pacificans for Highway 1 Alternatives (PH1A) members rallied in the rain March 29 to oppose Caltrans' Highway 1 widening plan and ask City Council to pursue alternatives. PH1A volunteers have been engaging the public all over town, finding overwhelming opposition to highway widening. PH1A's petition reads:
“To the Pacifica City Council: The Caltrans plan to widen Highway 1 is not good for Pacifica. It will cause more problems than it will solve. I support pursuing a combination of alternatives that can improve traffic congestion on Highway 1 and that will be less damaging to Pacifica.”
PH1A opposes the current Caltrans plan for a number of reasons: It is vague and does not address the need for safe pedestrian crossings. It does not have good bicycle lanes. It calls for huge retaining walls and does not rule out the possibility of sound walls blocking coastal views. In short, it would destroy some of Pacifica’s unique natural scenery and quality of life.
Moreover, the plan seems destined not to reduce traffic in the long range but to increase it, since four lanes would go to six lanes and then back to four – permanent bottlenecks on either end. Increased traffic during years of construction would generate more congestion, as well as air and noise pollution. Most likely, it would never lead to shortened traffic jams after that multiyear process.
PH1A has been organizing for more than a year to get Pacifica City Council to hold public hearings on Caltrans' plan. So far the city has not acted, and the plan is moving forward, with Caltrans taking the lead. PH1A also wants council to hire a traffic consultant to investigate best alternatives for Pacifica.
PH1A has suggested synchronization of traffic lights, more resources for school carpooling and shuttle buses, better public transportation, and other alternatives for pedestrians and bicycles, which are more likely to reduce traffic and be less invasive and disruptive for Pacificans and other coastsiders who use Highway 1.
On this perfectly drizzly coastal Tuesday, a gaggle of county park people and media types walked along the new Devil's Slide Trail to see the sights before the trail's official opening March 27.
Reporters interviewed rangers, with the beautiful backdrop of ocean waves and dramatic rock formations (like San Pedro Rock, above) below the formerly treacherous roadway, which now is transformed at a cost of almost $2 million into a 1.3-mile-long pedestrian/equestrian/bicycle path, connecting at both ends to the California Coastal Trail.
The trail opens from 8 a.m. to sunset, year-round. Limited parking is available at either end of the trail. Daily SamTrans #17 buses and weekend-only free Pacifica shuttles offer rides to and from the trail. All buses have bike racks on the front. For schedules and other information, see samtrans.com and cityofpacifica.org.
Viewing sites, benches, restrooms, bike racks, drinking fountains, interpretive signs, and pet stations are in place. Leashed dogs are allowed. For more information, see smcoparks.org.
Rock layers on mountainside (top), cave opening mistakenly believed to be one end of the old Ocean Shore Railroad tunnel (middle), Bunker Hill (bottom)
We just posted a video (below) that I'm really proud of. At today's media day for the new Devil's Slide Trail, we took a camera mounted on a bicycle and coasted from the north end of the trail to the south. As far as I know, this is the first such video of the new trail. The videographer was our 12-year-old daughter Julia Parr. The trail opens to the public on Thursday, March 27, at 1 p.m.
You know those nature shows where, say, a jaguar swims across a river and pounces on an eight-foot-long caiman, crushing its skull with massive jaws?
Paul Donahue does, and he’s got pictures to prove it. Paul, a resident of Pacifica, now spends part of the year in Brazil’s Pantanal as an eco tour guide and jaguar researcher. His recent photos from just such a dramatic event have been featured on the National Geographic website.
I recently interviewed Paul on Wavelength and he described the hunt, which took place last August 25: “We’d been to this spot the week before, and we watched the same jaguar stalk the same caiman—and he failed miserably!”
But this time the jaguar, nicknamed “Mick Jaguar” by the person who first photographed him, got what he was after, and so did Paul, who snapped up a series of dramatic photographs (see one above). “These jaguars are the biggest in the world…the reason they have such a strong bite is this is their main prey item. If you’ve ever looked at a crocodilian up close, they have this heavy plating on the back of their neck, and these jaguars have to be able to pierce that.”
So how did a boy from Massachusetts find himself working with jaguars in the Pantanal? Paul says, “I had a babysitter who got me interested in nature at an early age. By junior high school, I was looking at birds very seriously, and a few years later I started working in South America…I’ve been working with the jaguars since 2007. Before that, I was focused mainly on birds. Now I’ve decided that jaguars are a lot more interesting!”
That is not to say that he neglects the feathered species. In fact, since 1975 Paul has traveled to Maine every fall to participate in a “hawk watch.” He says, “It’s a way to monitor raptors, because when they breed, they’re scattered all over the place…so when they funnel through these migration pathways, it’s an opportunity to count them.”
This has given him plenty of chances to snap some amazing photos, although his target can move pretty fast (see peregine falcon in flight, above). “The only reason we have success is they keep coming,” he explained. “So if you don’t get it the first time, you’ll get it the next one or the one after that.”
Unfortunately, this has given him a firsthand view of nature’s decline. Paul says, “When we started doing it, in a good year we’d see about 5,000 hawks, and now if we get to 2,000 we’re doing well.”
But it’s not only the decline of East Coast raptors that worries Paul. Many of the shorebirds common to Pacifica, especially the little snowy plover, are particularly threatened. “They have the unfortunate habit of liking the same kind of sandy beaches that people like. If they picked a different habitat like a rocky shore or some different upland area they’d be doing fine,” Paul says. “Like so many things in nature, plovers are in a downward spiral.”
This year is shaping up to be a very big year for the plovers. Every year the Pacifica Beach Coalition celebrates a special animal as a part of its Earth Day celebration, and this year it features the plover, with Paul helping to spread the word.
In addition, the City of Pacifica has approved special protections for plovers, including symbolic fencing and signage to educate visitors about the threatened birds they share the beach with.
But it may not be enough. “I don’t see how a bird that lives within a few feet of the sea can survive sea level rise over the next 50 to 100 years,” Paul explains. Undaunted, he continues the important work of photographing plovers and teaching the public about these fragile creatures (below).
The work of saving threatened species can be frustrating, but sometimes there are opportunities to make a real impact. For instance, a few years ago Paul helped to save Luna, the ancient redwood tree made famous by Julia Butterfly Hill. Paul had visited Julia six months into her record-breaking tree-sit. A year after her tree-sit ended, an angry logger cut Luna two-thirds of the way through, leaving the tree in danger of toppling.
Paul knew what to do. “I had built canopy walkways in South America and we had experience stabilizing large trees,” he says. “We designed a system of cables. We had a collar at 110 feet, and then ran four cables running out to the hillside.” Those cables have now kept Luna standing for more than a decade.
“No tree like this had ever been cut to that point without falling down, so biologists had no idea what was going to happen,” Paul says, excited that the tree has actually flourished. “There is still new growth coming out every year…the cables are so substantial that it would take one hell of a storm to knock it over!”
But such successes are rare. And unfortunately, the more Paul knows about nature, the more he sees how threatened it is by our impact. He says, “Global warming is probably the biggest problem we’ve caused for ourselves and everybody else that shares the planet with us, and we need to address that first and foremost, whether it’s the jaguars or the hawks, it comes back to that problem more than any other.”
Paul Donahue will keep coming back from the wilds of Brazil, Maine, and, yes, Linda Mar Beach, with photographs that help remind us just how beautiful and fragile nature really is.
See Paul’s interview in its entirety on PCT, or streamed at Wavelength
Creative juxtaposition of issues by our Riptide palindromist Alan Wald:
"I read today that crowdsourcing is being used to pore over the millions of large-scale satellite images that cover the vast Indian Ocean, and it occurs to me that the chance of finding MH370 debris in one of those images is about the same as winning the Mega Millions lottery. So why not give the lottery and its players a useful purpose: Instead of generating random numbers, let's reprogram lottery machines to dispense random large-scale satellite images from the Indian Ocean? Find the debris -- win the jackpot."
Pacifica Beach Coalition hosts regular cleanups and habitat restorations at Pacifica beaches. If your school, group, or family would like to help, please contact Pacifica Beach Coalition at 650-355-1668. Supplies and support provided. Join Pacifica Beach Coalition to put your special talents to work. Become a Beach Steward for your favorite beach. Help with recordkeeping, writing articles, taking photographs, school presentations, media communications, fundraising, grant writing, and more.
If you like to walk in San Pedro Valley Park and enjoy its flora and fauna, and you want to help maintain the park, drop by the visitor center and join the volunteer team called Friends of San Pedro Valley Park. Several times a year, experts present programs at the visitor center and guided hikes focusing on park wildlife, geology, and botany. Volunteers help maintain the hiking trails and wildlife habitat in the park.
Bay Area nature enthusiasts stay informed about nature events and list their own events on BAY NATURE. That’s even easier to do now with the online event submission form. You can email your announcements, but please submit events two weeks in advance. The calendar is the most comprehensive listing of nature-related public activities in the Bay Area: hikes, talks, film screenings, workshops, restoration projects, special days at nature centers or science museums, and anything else nature-related. Calendar events also feed into the interactive map, one of the most popular features of the website. Your event may also be selected for the biweekly e-newsletter, Bay Nature Connections. Visit the website at the link below:
Explore internship and volunteer opportunities year-round in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), including Pacifica's three national parks (Mori Point, Milagra Ridge, and Sweeney Ridge), plus Ocean Beach, The Presidio, and Muir Woods. Projects include planting, weeding, mulching, beach cleanup, trail maintenance, and more. Register online at PARKS CONSERVANCY. For more information, call 415-561-3077 or email us at email@example.com