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By Paul Bendix

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About this blog: A 32-year resident of Menlo Park, I regularly make my way around downtown in a wheelchair. This gives me an unusual perspective on a town in which I have spent almost half of my life. I was educated at UC Berkeley, and permanentl...  (More)

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Call of the Sort of Wild

Uploaded: Jan 2, 2015
I see it the moment I turn north on 280, the Peninsula's signature ridge of coastal hills, their particular height and slope. Whatever the quality, I note its reappearance in the forested ridge behind Point Reyes Station. A geologist would probably tell me the hills are cut from similar terrestrial cloth, rising at the western edge of the same fault. I've been making this trip for years, finding rest and refuge in tiny Inverness. I appreciate the geographic symmetry of the hills at either end of the drive. Above all, I appreciate their relative wildness. Up and down this stretch of central California coast, people have strived mightily to preserve open space. This takes trust.

The Peninsula Open Space Trust and the Marin Agricultural Land Trust, to name two specific examples. Trust in the future, to name a more general quality.

I recall a 1967 photo on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle. An empty parking lot at Point Reyes National Seashore demontrated, according to the caption, that the park was little used. The land was certainly highly prized. As late as then, 1967, an approved West Marin General Plan called for 150,000 residents in Point Reyes and Olema. Four of that county's five supervisors voted against the National Seashore. President Kennedy signed it into law.

This New Year's Day, 2015, cars were queuing for spaces in precisely the same lot at North Beach. A few miles beyond, drivers heading for the lighthouse had to park and board a shuttle bus. Pacific Brown pelicans skimmed the waves, sea lions honked on the rocks, cows mooed on the nearby ranches. Life, indigenous and agricultural, happily coexisted with the humans who throng the park, every day, every year.

Our own San Mateo County coast lands offer much the same refuge for the soul. They too exist in their open state only because of determination and sacrifice. The biggest battles to preserve our slopes and seascapes occurred a few decades ago. Or did they? Advocates will tell you these battles are never over. Our Bay seems particularly vulnerable to the urban development on its shores.

Meanwhile, tomorrow I'm heading for San Gregorio...to celebrate whoever made it a state park. And those of us who will make sure it stays that way.
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