Residents of the La Honda area and communities nearby are unhappy with the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District's plans to build a visitor center near the iconic red barn off Highway 84/La Honda Road, and intend to air their grievances at a public meeting of the district's board Tuesday night, June 12, in La Honda.
Residents say they have more than 600 signatures on a petition opposing the plans, which are currently in preliminary stages.
Using funding from the $300 million bond measure approved by voters in 2014, the open space district wants to make the area around the red barn -- a prominent and frequently photographed landmark on Highway 84 between Skyline Boulevard and La Honda -- into a visitors' center with a parking lot for up to 75 cars and a driveway off Highway 84.
The district's timeline shows the board approving a conceptual design for the project at the June 12 meeting and then beginning the environmental review process, which would take about a year. Construction would begin in fall of 2021 and would take about a year.
The district is looking at three different conceptual plans for the area. One plan, Alternative 3, is divided into two phases and would eventually add parking for 75 vehicles. Two other alternatives allow parking for three horse trailers and 25 to 30 other vehicles.
The district's website shows its goals for the red barn area are to:
•Establish new public access in the central portion of La Honda Open Space Preserve.
•Design elements to reflect the rural character of the site and the red barn.
•Balance public access with grazing activities.
•Include amenities that facilitate environmental education.
•Protect scenic views of and from the site.
•Construct by fall 2022.
But opponents of the visitors' center say in a letter to the district's board that the plan is not consistent with the open space district's mission to "protect and restore the natural environment, (and) preserve rural character" of its preserves.
Opponents say the local community was not given sufficient notice of the project and that more traffic studies need to be done. They also cite increased risk of fire danger and the potential impact to sensitive species and wildlife habitats in the proposed access area.
Most of those issues will be examined in the state-required environmental impact report.
The opponents say alternative access points to view the red barn area are already planned, such as the trails from the La Honda Creek open space area's parking lot on Sears Ranch Road.
They ask for limited permit-only parking at the site or docent-led access to and from the existing driveway.
The site is approximately eight acres and was part of the former Weeks Ranch, settled by the Ronald J. Weeks family in the 1850s. The barn, the only structure remaining on the ranch, was built in 1892.
The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at La Honda Elementary, 450 Sears Ranch Road in La Honda.
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