News - September 29, 2010

Trails committee: Not just for equestrians

by Dave Boyce

The Portola Valley Trails Committee has a new charter, one intended to realize the Town Council's vision of a group that represents the interests of equestrians, but also of other trail users who the council says have lacked representation.

These include hikers, families with children, dog walkers, wildflower and bird enthusiasts, cyclists and fans of geo-caching — a planet-spanning game of caching containers of small objects in secluded places so that others can enjoy searching for them and leaving their signatures there.

By a 5-0 vote, the council on Sept. 22 approved a revised process for appointing committee members and a revised charter. The new charter has the committee reviewing its annual budget rather than preparing it, setting up programs for trail safety and maintenance, and encouraging the safe enjoyment of the trails by diverse users.

The discussion included a critique by equestrians, but one less strident than the complaints aired at the council's Sept. 8 meeting. Portola Valley resident Carlin Hansen, for example, suggested that the council lacks diversity in that it has no equestrians on it.

(Ann Wengert is an equestrian, but not currently riding. Woodside's Town Council includes three equestrians, Town Manager Susan George said. That council is invited on occasional rides organized by the town's Trails Committee.)


The matter of diversifying voices on the committee will not be left to members exclusively.

The committee will be asked to interview candidates and come to a consensus on a proposed roster, but the new candidates and current members will be interviewed privately by the current mayor, incoming mayor and town manager.

If the Trails Committee cannot reach a consensus, they will be asked to submit notes outlining the different viewpoints expressed.

As with all volunteer committees, the mayor appoints members with the consensual approval of the council.

"We recognize that it's not necessarily an easy task," Mr. Toben said. "We intend to be very thorough and transparent about putting a new team together."

"Our overall goal," Mr. Toben said in a recent memo, "is to find the right mix of individuals who will work constructively together to maximize the benefits of the town's trails to all users ... always taking into account the cherished qualities that distinguish Portola Valley's trails system."


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