Guest opinion: Trail dedicated to Valley pioneer | May 30, 2012 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


Viewpoint - May 30, 2012

Guest opinion: Trail dedicated to Valley pioneer

by Nancy Lund

For decades the Dwight Crowder Memorial Trail has hugged the Portola Valley town boundary in a narrow strip of land between Alpine Road and Los Trancos Creek. It begins at the Town border at Ladera Oaks and ends near Portola Road, two miles away. Lately it's been in the news as the C-1 Trail, the construction term used as major repairs and upgrades have been underway.

These renovations, made in accordance with the wishes of the town, cost Stanford around $2 million. This project is one part of the university's required mitigations for permission to add a great deal of new development on campus. The creek banks have been stabilized. The trail, which was essentially straight, has been partially realigned as a gently meandering path further from the road in places and with incursions beyond the town border in three places to bring it closer to the creek. Newly planted natives are taking root between the trail and the road.

So who was Dwight Crowder and why was a trail named for him? He was a geologist and first chair of the Portola Valley Conservation Committee. Shortly after incorporation in 1964, he began deluging the Town Council and planners with memos and reports: open space zoning, landscaping with natives, retention of natural views, standards for building and maintaining trails, creekside protection, and outdoor classrooms in schools, among others.

Early on Dwight recognized the dangers of building on landslide-prone ground in a major earthquake fault zone. The council wrote the concept of varying density into the 1965 General Plan, but they were busy with the voluminous details of creating a town, and geology wasn't a high priority in land-use planning in that era. But Dwight recognized its importance. He foresaw the need for mapping and creating carefully constructed ordinances in earthquake country. He was the first to speak of the need for engineering and geologic studies, geologic maps, and restricted development on steep slopes. It was his vision and persistence that provided the impetus for building safely in the San Andreas Fault valley. In subsequent years, Portola Valley's pioneering studies of how to develop land in unstable earthquake country have become known throughout the world.

He died as the innocent victim of a traffic accident on Portola Road in 1970, but his legacy lives on in the core values town residents hold today. Take a walk along the newly refurbished trail, enjoy the ambiance, and give a thought to the man whose name it bears and to the power of one person to make a difference.

Nancy Lund is historian for the town of Portola Valley.

Editor's Note: The Dwight Crowder Memorial Trail will be rededicated at ceremonies during the annual town picnic on June 9.