Contentious hearing: horses vs. bikes at Huddart Park | March 29, 2006 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - March 29, 2006

Contentious hearing: horses vs. bikes at Huddart Park

• Safety is key concern of horse riders; parks director proposes a compromise.

by Marion Softky

With cheering, clapping and catcalls, it sounded more like a football game than an important public hearing, as equestrians and mountain bikers faced off over a proposal for a Valley-to-Skyline mountain bike trail through Woodside's Huddart Park.

Close to 400 passionate partisans jammed the auditorium of McKinley School in Redwood City March 22 for a hearing by the San Mateo County Parks and Recreation Commission on a proposed master plan for Huddart and Wunderlich parks.

By the time it ended at 9:30 p.m., 34 people had weighed in, mostly against the proposed bike trail; 31 more had submitted speaker slips. They will get their chance when the hearing continues at the next regular commission meeting on Thursday, April 6, at 2:30 p.m., in Redwood City.

The proposed route for mountain bikes is the one controversial element in the otherwise straightforward master plan for the county's two semi-wilderness parks on the Bay side of the hills. Bicyclists are not allowed to ride on park trails; they can, however, ride on park roads.

Under development for the last three years, the proposed master plan suggests a vision for the parks over the next 20 years. That vision calls for mostly simple improvements to roads, trails and picnic areas; vegetation management; a new interpretive center at Huddart Park; and restoration of the historic Folger Stable at Wunderlich.

County Parks and Recreation Director Dave Holland proposed a way through the emotional disputes between opposing groups of trail users. He recommended that the commission:

• Approve the draft master plan for Huddart and Wunderlich parks without the mountain bike trail (and recommend it to the Board of Supervisors for adoption).

• Create a blue ribbon committee to develop a new trails master plan for the county that will include all users, such as road and mountain bikers, within the next 18 months.

"This effort has been divisive; it has polarized folks," Mr. Holland acknowledged. He argued that the county trails plan needs to be revised so that it provides specific guidance to accommodate all user groups, new uses, and changing needs.

"This needs to be done now, rather than later," Mr. Holland said. "Trails are the single most unique attribute of the county parks."

The trail

The proposed Valley-to-Skyline Trail would provide a route up the hill for mountain bikers separate from the park trail system, which is off limits.

Bikers could enter Huddart Park from Greer Road in Woodside, and use paved park roads as far as the park's entrance on Kings Mountain Road.

Above the park entrance, a new 12-foot-wide trail would be built south of Kings Mountain Road up Squealer Gulch. It would cross Kings Mountain Road again near the road to the archery range, and continue to Skyline. Plans call for a new parking lot near the upper crossing.

The plan also suggests turning the part of Huddart Park south of Kings Mountain Road over to the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District for inclusion in its adjacent Teague Hill Open Space Preserve. The district allows mountain bike use on certain trails in its preserves.

The debate

The arguments presented to the commission have ripened over years of feuding.

Safety was the primary worry of the 23 speakers — mostly horse riders — who opposed the trail. They cited accidents and near-accidents caused by bicycle packs and renegade bicyclists illegally speeding down park trails and terrorizing horses, riders and hikers.

"Mixing uses on the same trail is a recipe for disaster," said Kermit Clayton.

Other concerns were increased traffic and parking on narrow Woodside roads, sanitation, the burden of responding to accidents, and erosion and sedimentation of creeks caused by skidding bikes.

Woodside Town Manager Susan George presented the town's "adamant opposition" to any bike trail that will encroach on parks and detract from their enjoyment. She cited problems with traffic and parking. "The Town Council supports a regional collaborative effort to solve the problem," she said.

Seven mountain bikers asked for respect and a safe way to get from the valley to Skyline. "Give us an opportunity to show what we can do," said Shane Overton. "We police ourselves. We believe the issues can be addressed."

Susan Doherty complained about the incendiary language of bicycle opponents. "Please don't demonize cyclists," she said.

Patty Ciesla, executive director of the Northern California Mountain Bicycling Association, offered to build a separate trail for mountain bikes with no negative environmental impacts. "I can raise the funds and build the trail at no cost to the county. I promise," she said.


The San Mateo County Parks and Recreation Commission will continue its hearing on the draft master plan for Huddart and Wunderlich parks at its regular meeting Thursday, April 6, at 2:30 p.m. in the Board of Supervisors Chambers, 400 County Center (corner of Hamilton Avenue and Bradford Street) in Redwood City. For information on the proposed bike route, go to, and click on Huddart Wunderlich Draft Master Plan; or call county planner Sam Herzberg at 363-1823.


Like this comment
Posted by Susie
a resident of another community
on Sep 17, 2013 at 7:34 pm

I think horse crap poses a sanitation problem

Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Woodside: Kings Mountain/Skyline
on Sep 17, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Bicycles are banned from almost all San Mateo County Parks lands, despite the fact that there are thousands of times more bicyclists than horse riders living in the county. It is about time that the county opened just one park to bicycling. There are plenty of places the horse riders can go if they want a public park all to themselves.

Like this comment
Posted by Janet L
a resident of another community
on Sep 18, 2013 at 9:42 am

I frequently ride my bike on the paved roads in Huddart Park from Greer to the park entrance on Kings Mountain. It's steeper, but far calmer and safer than riding lower Kings Mountain Road. If only I could have continued climbing up the mountain without being buzzed by car traffic.

Allowing bikes on a new trail that's on the other side of Kings Mountain does not mean that mountain bikers will illegally use the trails in the main park.

It's clear here that the horseback riders speaking at the event were selfishly trying to keep another group of users off the mountain, even in areas that they do not currently use. I even had one start to scold me for legally riding on the paved road in the park. Her friend shushed her.

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Posted by Eric
a resident of another community
on Sep 7, 2014 at 1:16 pm

I am a trail runner and run frequently in Huddart Park. I run once a week on different mornings in the park. I consistently see evidence of mountain bike tracks on the trails in Huddart and have on two different mornings seen the same guy riding his mountain bike on the trails and confronted him. Each time I've told him it was illegal, and each time he apologized - acting "surprised". I also saw a group of three bikers descending the lonely trail in Phleger Estate in the early morning hours with lights….clearly choosing a time when the thought they could get away with it. I think the expressed concern that there aren't enough ranger resources to patrol for illegal usage is legitimate as the supposed "self-policing" doesn't appear to working.

Like this comment
Posted by another trail runner
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 7, 2014 at 4:25 pm

I not infrequently see mountain bikers riding into Wunderlich Park with headlights after it is dark. I used to get into a bit of a huff about it, but really I think it's about as much of a victimless crime as can be.

Technically the park is closed, so they aren't impacting any other users and they are getting some enjoying the park at their own risk. I choose to look the other way.