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February 08, 2006

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Publication Date: Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Popular Woodside trail closes, but should reopen soon Popular Woodside trail closes, but should reopen soon (February 08, 2006)

By Andrea Gemmet

Almanac Staff Writer

Nothing ruins a trail ride like an unexpectedly blocked trail.

The sudden closure of a popular trail leading to Huddart Park in Woodside stunned its habitues, but equestrians and hikers take heart -- it should re-open by midmonth, according to David Holland, the county parks and recreation director.

Mr. Holland said he is working with Woodside officials to solve a problem with trail easements that shut down a portion of the Crystal Springs trail near Raymundo Drive in late January. The trail is especially popular with horseback riders as a connector leading to other trails.

"I'm getting about 25 to 30 e-mails a day right now," Mr. Holland said. "People have some very strong opinions."

The trail meanders across adjacent property owned by Allen and Melinda Fitch on one side and Janet and Jim Estep on the other.

However, the county has no easement agreement with the Esteps that allows public trail access, which created a liability problem for them, Mr. Holland said. After hiring a surveyor to mark their property line, the Esteps put up a temporary fence that blocks one of the winding trail's switchbacks.

Mr. Estep declined to be interviewed for this story.

It looks as though the town of Woodside is going to ride to the rescue, however. The Esteps are working with Town Manager Susan George to grant an easement to the town, and county officials are working on transferring the Fitches' easement over to Woodside as well, Mr. Holland said. The trail will then be maintained by the town of Woodside, something that both property owners prefer, he said.

"We're very lucky we have property owners willing to dedicate easements for trails," said Councilwoman Sue Boynton, the Town Council's liaison to the Trails Committee. "I think we will definitely have a nice outcome for everybody."

She said the issue is scheduled to come before the Trails Committee at its 3 p.m. meeting on Thursday, February 9. The committee meets in Independence Hall at 2955 Woodside Road.

Mr. Holland said the trail can be reopened as soon as the Woodside Town Council accepts the trail easement, tentatively scheduled for its February 14 meeting.

"We have no intent of shutting down that trail, neither Woodside nor us, and we're going to work as fast as we can to get it open," he said. "It's a very used public trail, and it's very critical to equestrians."

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors will have to approve abandoning the trail easement with the Fitches before it can be transferred to the town of Woodside, but in the meantime the trail will continue to be managed by the county, Mr. Holland said.

"I think we have a good solution," he said.

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