Stanford trail set to open

Decade-old agreement with Santa Clara County comes to fruition after years of controversy

A long-awaited trail that runs south of Page Mill Road and Foothill Expressway through the foothills could be open to the public as soon as next week, a Stanford University official said this week.

The trail is one of two the university is required to construct to satisfy its land-use agreement with Santa Clara County, approved in 2000.

The trails are intended to offset the impact of additional development by the university. The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approved the trail plans 4 to 1 in December 2005.

The Matadero trail, also known as S-1, runs south along Page Mill Road and veers east at the intersection of Deer Creek Road. It continues southeast until it links up with a county trail that runs north at Arastradero Road and Interstate 280.

The upper part of the pathway consists of a paved, multipurpose bike and pedestrian trail; south of Deer Creek Road, the trail is unpaved and accessible to hikers only. In addition, a paved bike trail at Deer Creek Road is planned that will meet up with a southern trail to Arastradero and Purissima roads, university spokesman Larry Horton said. The Matadero trail affords sweeping views of the Bay Area that are similar to those seen from the Stanford Dish trail, he said.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Liz Kniss, who cast the lone vote against the trail package in 2005 because of the proposed northern trail route, walked the lower segment of the Matadero trail this past Monday.

"It looks great," she said.

The opening of the trail is pending a sign-off by the county Parks and Recreation Department of an easement modification, Horton said.

The Matadero and the northern trail, called C-1, along Alpine Road, were proposed in the 1995 Santa Clara Countywide Trails Master Plan.

The trails have been plagued by controversy for the last decade. Palo Alto-based nonprofit Committee for Green Foothills filed a lawsuit against the county and the university in 2006, claiming environmental review of the plans had been inadequate. But the California Supreme Court in February 2010 overturned an appeals court ruling in the case.

Stanford owns 8,180 acres of land; about half is in Santa Clara County and one third is in San Mateo County. Other jurisdictions include Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Portola Valley and Woodside. Each city or county must approve any project that goes through its jurisdiction.

While the southern trail will open soon, the northern path is in limbo due to disagreements over the exact route. The northern trail would run from El Camino Real along Sand Hill Road, then follow the county line -- roughly along Alpine Road -- until it terminates at Arastradero Road. But Stanford has proposed a paved pedestrian/bike path along Alpine Road in San Mateo County, from Sand Hill to Piers Lane, instead of a trail along the nearby Los Trancos Creek in Santa Clara County.

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors voted in MArch 2010 to reject Stanford's plan, and reaffirmed the decision in November.

Now the board has until Dec. 31, 2011, to decide if it will accept more than $8.4 million -- $10.2 million with interest -- from Stanford to build the Alpine Road segment, Horton said. The offer could extend until 2013. If the county decides not to accept Stanford's offer, the money would go back to Santa Clara County to spend on measures that would offset the negative impacts of Stanford's expansion, Horton said.

A more than $1 million overture Stanford made to the Town of Los Altos Hills to enhance a 1-mile trail connection has also stalled. That trail runs from Arastradero and Purissima roads west and south to Pearson Arastradero Preserve. But residents are concerned about parking, safety and the influx of additional hikers and bicyclists. The Los Altos Hills City Council voted to table a decision pending an environmental review and analysis and input from its open space and pathways committees.

If Los Altos Hills ultimately rejects the trail improvements, the money would return to Stanford, Horton said.

Portola Valley also plans to expand 1 mile of the northern path along Alpine between Arastradero and La Cuesta Drive. Stanford will provide up to $2.9 million for the project. Construction is expected to begin in the next few weeks and could be completed in October or November, Horton said.

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Like this comment
Posted by trail to nowhere
a resident of another community
on May 13, 2011 at 12:24 pm

The whole point of this trail was to provide a family-friendly bike route from the Stanford campus and midtown Palo Alto to the Arastradero Preserve. If Stanford cannot deliver on that 10 year old promise, then this is a big scam.

Like this comment
Posted by gunste
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on May 13, 2011 at 1:13 pm

To call the paved path along the traffic of Page Mill Road a "Trail" is being very Stanford. It provides a very good reason why San Mateo County rejected a similar asphalt path along Alpine Road. With all the land available to Stanford, a real trail away from the road traffic would have been very nice.

Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on May 13, 2011 at 8:40 pm

It is not correct to say that the whole point of this trail was to provide a family-friendly rout to Arastradero preserve. The point was to provide some access to Stanford open space to compensate for more building in the core campus areas. Too many groups got involved and tried to twist and turn the project in different directions until it turned into a worthless exercise.

Like this comment
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 14, 2011 at 10:01 am

A paved trail next to a four lane major road is more like a sidewalk than a trail, if you ask me. Horrible routing.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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