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By Dave Boyce
Almanac Staff Writer
A new hiking trail is now walk-worthy and within sight of the Portola Valley Town Center. The Public Works Department on June 21 announced the opening of a perimeter trail around the 6-acre Spring Down meadow, located at 725 Portola Road, adjacent to the Town Center tennis courts.
Along with a trail, this first phase of the project included the removal of non-native vegetation and replanting with native grass seed, all at a cost of about $20,000, Assistant Town Manager Janet McDougall said.
The town has set aside $75,000 for the entire project.
The second phase involves hiring a biologist to look for endangered species. If none are found, the town will hire a hydrologist to consult on changing the 8-foot-deep, manmade, oxygen-starved, debris-strewn and possibly dangerous pond in the meadow into something natural, seasonal, shallower, and home for amphibians and insects.
"We don't believe we're going to find endangered species there," Public Works Director Howard Young said in April. "We're pretty sure of that."
"The pond could be the crown jewel," said Gary Nielsen, a member of the citizens committee that studied this meadow and recommended to the Town Council that it be preserved as open space.
The committee also heard proposals for a skate park or a field to accommodate a pick-up baseball game, but open space won the day, according to a staff report.
"It very much emerged that a consensus wanted to keep it in an open state (though the minority's views) were definitely considered," committee liaison and Councilwoman Ann Wengert said in April.
To pay for projects like this one, the town taps the Open Space fund, which is expected to have a balance of about $3.2 million in June 2012.
The fund is replenished yearly with revenues of $225,000 to $250,000 from the utility users' tax and about $80,000 from the proceeds of the annual Blues & Barbecue festival. The festival will not be held in 2011 due in part to a lack of volunteers needed to bring it off.