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July 20, 2005

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Publication Date: Wednesday, July 20, 2005

What's the future for Huddart, Wunderlich? What's the future for Huddart, Wunderlich? (July 20, 2005)

** A public hearing is set for August 4 on a master plan for the two parks.

By Marion Softky

Almanac Staff Writer

Rising above Woodside all the way to Skyline Boulevard, Huddart and Wunderlich parks provide the public with access to almost 2,000 acres of forest and meadow threaded with trails, plus some popular picnic and group-camp sites.

Now, San Mateo County is honing its vision of how to care for and develop the parks over the next 20 years.

The Parks and Recreation Commission will hold a public hearing on a draft master plan for Huddart and Wunderlich parks on Thursday, August 4, at 2:30 p.m., in the Board of Supervisors chambers at 400 County Center (corner of Hamilton and Bradford) in Redwood City.

Published in May, the 138-page plan has been developed with lots of public consultation, including three public workshops and five focus groups.

The draft plan proposes two new buildings at Huddart Park: A ranger's residence near the entrance would give way to a new visitors' center; and a new community building would be built in the location of the Zwierlein group picnic area. The latter could serve private parties and weddings, and bring in some revenue. The park hosts two or three weddings a weekend, the report notes.

The draft plan focuses on making the parks safer and more efficient. It proposes improvements to roads, parking lots and group camp areas. Some trails and trail bridges would be improved to reduce erosion.

The plan also proposes rebuilding several aging shelters, providing a real restroom in Wunderlich Park, and replacing 1950s-vintage restrooms in Huddart Park. "The plumbing is gone," said park supervisor Priscilla Alvarez on a tour.

Another goal is to reduce fuel that could feed fires, and get rid of non-native and invasive plants and trees, such as broom, eucalyptus and acacia.
Tour of the parks

Down by the Oak parking lot and campground, tie-dyed T-shirts draped over park railings flap gaily in the breeze.

There are 450 Girl Scouts spending two weeks at the park, Ms. Alvarez says cheerfully as we bump over a gravel parking lot. The T-shirts are one of their projects.

A tour of Huddart and Wunderlich parks by members of the Parks and Recreation Commission shows how proposed projects will benefit park users, employees and habitats.

At the Oak areas, for example, there will be access by a one-way loop road, better facilities for campers and picnickers, and an amphitheater carved into the hillside. "There will be a third more parking down here with far less impact on the environment," Ms. Alvarez said.

Several projects will reduce erosion. One failing culvert will be replaced by a bridge. Another bridge, which is causing erosion on the steep hillside above it, may be relocated if a suitable trail connection can be arranged.

Even the corporation yard, where park equipment is stored, is being upgraded with new facilities to wash down the equipment. A new ranger's residence will not interfere with the Kings Mountain Trail, Ms. Alvarez assured the horsemen who were crammed into the county SUV for the tour, along with a reporter and a bicyclist.

Bumping into Wunderlich Park halfway up the hill, Ms. Alvarez pointed to the meadow grown up with coyote brush and broom, a fire hazard and a future target of the county's vegetation management plan.

Vegetation control was in evidence farther down the hill where rangers, with help from Sheriff's Office work teams, have downed acres of the scrawny eucalyptus and acacia forest this year and last. Besides discouraging native vegetation, these present a huge fire hazard.

The most visible improvements proposed for Wunderlich Park would be concentrated around the entrance and the historic Folger Stable complex, now on the National Register of Historic Places.

The master plan proposes major changes in parking and access to the park on Woodside Road. Instead of one entrance, it proposes a one-way loop that would be safer, particularly for horse trailers.

The entry would be at the current temporary entrance south of the stables, and the exit at the former permanent entrance, now closed because of a bridge failure. The bridge should be replaced this fall.

Renovations in the stable area would dovetail with the restoration of the Folger barn under the leadership of the Friends of Huddart and Wunderlich Park, which is raising funds for the project.

The private boarding stable would be retained under the proposed plan, but the restoration would include some public access for programs and exhibits on the history of horses in San Mateo County.

At the end of the tour and meeting, commission chairman Richard Biederman warned it will be a long time before funding is in place for all the projects in the draft plan.
Bicycle issues

While most of the draft plan seems uncontroversial, the main flash point is bicycles. Mountain bicyclists are seeking an off-road route from the bottom of the hill to Skyline and the open space preserves along the ridge.

The county Board of Supervisors has barred mountain bikes from all county park trails, primarily because of opposition from equestrians, who have ridden them for generations.

The plan suggests a number of possibilities -- all difficult, controversial and expensive. For example, the plan suggests building a bicycle trail along the side of steep, narrow, winding Kings Mountain Road.

Patty Ciesla, executive director of the Northern California Mountain Biking Association, told the commission that local mountain bikers were distressed by the plan. "The plan needs to provide some access for the valley," she said. "The proposal for a bike path inside the right-of-way (of Kings Mountain Road) is infeasible."

Referring to recent accidents in which bicycles spooked horses and injured riders, Al Felice of Menlo Park, president of the San Mateo County Horseman's Association, begged the county to keep "current restrictions on bicycle use in the park." They are currently allowed on park roads.

For more information, check out "The Huddart and Wunderlich Park Draft Master Plan" online at Click on "Park Planning" in the left-hand menu, then scroll down the page to find links to the master plan document. It includes many pages of comments already submitted.

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