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Trail Blazing is Moving Full Steam Ahead

Major Bay Area Rail Trails

A New Brochure in the Works!

We're Building a Bay-front Trail in San Mateo

HELP!

Maps!

Hike of the Month...Grant Ranch County Park

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The Trail Companion (ISSN 1528-0241 (print); 1094-222X (online)) is the quarterly newsletter of the Trail Center.

Editor: Scott Heeschen
Staff Writer: Geoffrey Skinner
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Trail Center
3921 E. Bayshore Rd.
Palo Alto, CA 94303
Ph.: (650) 968-7065
info@trailcenter.org

The Trail Companion

February/March 1997

Trail Blazing is Moving Full Steam Ahead

A funny thing happened to public lands en route to the late 20th Century. Timber barons slurped up miles of California redwoods through fraudulent use of the federal Timber & Stone Act. Mining combines scored rich claims for the minimal cost of filing fees. Congress lavished vast tracts on railroad companies to reward them for laying rail.
      Now, a citizen's group, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), is building its own head of steam, as it rips up track to return unused rail corridors to the public as green and open space. Thanks to RTC efforts, 9,000 miles of former train rights-of-way in the United States are now available as "linear parks" and as community links to free use by cyclists, pedestrians skaters and equestrians.
      The Conservancy has built 49 rail-trails spanning 223 miles in California, and established a new office in San Francisco, to encourage the conversion of a lot more.
      "The idea of turning unused lines into a vibrant resource unites many people--hiking clubs, cyclists, wildlife advocates, political types who are community oriented," says David Burwell. He co-founded the RTC in 1985 and remains its president. "But you get long, skinny parks, cutting across several jurisdictions. Such things fall through the cracks of conventional government. Who has the current title? Who'll fund the trail, who winds up managing it? That's where we arrive, to provide expertise."
      Burwell was an attorney with the National Wildlife Federation, when the fate of an 11-mile railway corridor from Washington, D.C., to Bethesda, Md. Came up for grabs. Burwell snatched the opportunity. Today that corridor is a hiking, biking and skating trail that gets 1,500 users a day. The conservancy Burwell formed with Peter Harnik to accomplish this end now has 70,000 members, who work for similar conversions throughout the United States.
      The group has racked up a list of achievements in California, revealing unexpected gains to local communities. The 7.75 mile Lafayette/Moraga trail (a conversion of the old Sacramento Northern line) was the focus of a study showing area merchants gained $2 million dollars annually in increased sales to trail users everything from snacks and items of gear, to lodging and meals.
      "It's not just recreation and social benefits we want to promote," says Kate Bickert, director of the RTC's new San Francisco office, "but also the alternative forms of commuting. We want to link communities, hook trails to other hubs, like BART and bus stations." That's why of the 69 new projects, totaling 1,037 miles, that RTC would like to get going in California the most pressing targets are segments closest to urban centers.
      "Rail corridors are some of the last land near cities which can become green space," Bickert says. "But ownership issues can be contentious and complex. We have to act quickly."
      However, the nation's country-side presents a tremendous amount of opportunity. The United States once boasted 270,000 miles of rail. Just 120,000 miles are active now. Much of the unused portion can be turned to other purposes. In addition, 2,000 to 3,000 miles continue to be abandoned each year, thanks to deregulation of railroads. This inspires fantasies of a national web of trails, and many philanthropic organizations are stoking this dream with fiscal fuel to help see it achieved. "The RTC's new San Francisco office was opened with grants from the Packard, Hewlett, San Francisco and Compton foundations.)
      Yet one pivotal source of funds from the federal gas tax allocating 1.5 percent of gasoline tax moneys for transportation enhancement (things like billboard removal, scenic byways, and pedestrain and bicycle paths) comes up for renewal next September. While this law has been active in the past six years, a billion dollars has been applied to trail conversions and bike facilities.
      "That money is crucial," says Burwell. "sometimes, we get corridors released to public use for free, or it might cost us $100,000 a mile to get it back. In any case, it cost $10,000 a mile to prepare a trail for bicycle, skating and pedestrian traffic.
      "Renewing that law will be a big fight. The highway lobby (trucking groups, paving contractors and the American Automobile Association) regard trails as 'frills.' They want every dime to go back into highways. One the other side are local governments, who have found out how many benefits derive from having these trails link up your neighborhoods."
      The best way to research these issues: take a bike ride or walk on one of the Bay Area's growing number of Rail-to-Trail conversions. Cruise like a pedal-powered choo choo down a long, quiet lane that winds behind houses, shops and schools, meeting no cross-traffic and scant delay. See smiling fellow citizens holding hands, walking dogs, performing long-distance skate workouts, pushing babies in strollers. Then, pedal back out onto noisy, crowded urban streets, and compare.
      Note: Membership in the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy costs $18 per year. For more information call, (415) 397-2220 or (202) 797-5400.

by Paul McHugh, Staff Writer

Reprinted from the San Francisco Chronicle
Outdoors, January 2, 1997




Major Bay Area Rail Trails

Trail descriptions derived from: "Rail-Trail Guide to California" by Fred Wert, Infinity Press, Seattle, Washington
     
  • Land's End Trail. Based on a former urban rail line built by Adolph Sutro in 1884, the current trail is 1.2 miles of dirt and sand. It starts from the parking lot north of Cliff House, ends at El Camino del Mar near 33rd Ave., and provides epic views of the Golden Gate. It's suitable for hikers, runners and mountain bikers, with some staircase segments to get around erosion and land slides. Manager: GGNRA, (415) 556-8642.

  • Sir Frances Drake Bikeway. Once part of the North Pacific Coast Railroad line from Larkspur to Cazedero, this 5.3 mile route (3.4 miles paved, the rest gravel) parallels Lagunitas Creek. It starts near the junction of Platform Bridge Rd. and Sir Francis Drake Blvd., and runs east past Sam Taylor State Park to Shaffer Bridge. Suitable for hikers, runners, bikers equestrians. A few short segments are also open along Tomales Bay. There are dreams of someday re-opening the route all the way to the Russian River. Managers: Pt. Reyes National Seashore, (415) 663-1092; Taylor State Park, (415) 488-9897.

  • Old Railroad Grade. This steep route climbs 1,900 feet from Blithedale Park in Mill Valley almost to the summit of Mt. Tamalpais in just 8 miles. Portions are paved, but most of it is the original dirt/gravel ballast of what once was a tourist jaunt billed as "The Crookedest Railroad in the World." Suitable for hikers, mountain bikers. Manager: Marin Municipal Water District, (415) 924-4600, ext. 294.

  • Mill Valley-to-Sausalito Path. A paved, level route that traverses a tidal marsh, this trail offers special charms to skaters and bird watchers, as well as being suitable for other users. It travels 3.5 milels, from e. Blithedale Street in Mill Valley to Dunphy Park in Sausalito. Manager: Marin Co. Dept of Parks. (415) 499-6387.

  • Tiburon Lineal Park. A cool companion to the North Bay shoreline, this 2.3 mile, paved pathway runs from the junction of Trestle Glen Road and Tiburon Boulevard to Mar West St. at Belvedere. Suitable for skaters, strollers, cyclists. The path occupies an old rail spur of the Port of Tiburon. Manager: City of Tiburon, (415) 435-7373.

  • Joe Rodota Bike Trail. This is the rustic, scenic route between Sebastopol and Santa Rosa, near the intersection of highway 12 and Merced. In its paved, 3-mile course, it crosses several creeks and traverses Sonoma County farmland. The trail will eventually be extended northward to Forestville to provide a link to the Russian River area. Suitable for skaters, walkers, cyclists. Manager: Sonoma Co. Regional Parks, (707) 527-2041.

  • Ohlone Greenway. Yes, the Atchiscon, Topeka & Santa Fe railway of song and legend actually did exist, and this is one legacy: a 3.75 mile-long paved trail that runs under elevated BART tracks from Conlon and Key Streets in El Cerrito to Virginia and Acton in Berkeley. Strollers and skaters will enjoy it the most. The Greenway is managed by the communities of El Cerrito, Albany and Berkeley, through which it passes.

  • Lafayette/Moraga Trail. A paved link between parks, towns, and open space, this 7.75 mile meander along Las Trampas Creek is a poster child for the whole Rails-to-Trails movement. It opened twenty years ago, and now sees nearly half-a-million users per year, primarily walkers and cyclists. It starts at Olympic Blvd. And Pleasant Hill Rd in Lafayette. An economic study reveals the conversion of this old Sacramento Northern rail line now generates $2.2 million dollars into local business activity by trail users. Manager: East Bay Regional Parks. (510) 635-0135, ext. 0138.

  • San Ramon Valley Iron Horse Trail. Of all current trail conversions in the Bay Area, this one showcases the huge potential of rail corridors to provide both recreation and alternative transport. Now up to 16.5 miles of its planned 21-mile length, this link between Concort and San Ramon may soon pass through Dublin to Pleasanton in the south where it can connect to a planned route to Livermore. To the north, it can reach the Benicia-Martinez Bridge. Meanwhile, its smooth, shaded length provides a welcome respite to walkers, cyclists, skaters and strollers. Manager: East Bay Regional Parks. (510) 635-0135, ext. 0138


A New Brochure in the Works!

     We are putting together a brochure describing the services we offer in trail work (and possibly in mapping as well). The brochure will be directed toward the agencies we work with, rather than our membership and the public. Although we currently have several trail projects lined up, we recently experienced a very dry period; we hope to raise our visibility with the new brochure. We are looking for volunteers to help with grant writing, layout and production for the brochure. If this project interests you, please come to our first planning meeting on Wed., Feb. 26 (place and time TBA). Contact Geoffrey Skinner at 415 725-1159 or gskinner@stanford.edu for more information.

Geoffrey Skinner



We're Building a Bay-front Trail in San Mateo

We break ground on a brand new project on Saturday, March 1st and it will be poison oak free!. The Trail Center's very first project was next to the San Francisco Bay--in Ravenswood Open Space Preserve. Now, thirteen years later, we return to the Bay, this time in San Mateo. We'll be building a 2/3 mile-long trail connecting Ryder and Harborview Parks. Our new trail follows a tidal canal and parallels the Bay Trail (the new trail may even be designated as a Bay Trail alternate route).
     Call the office to sign up for the kick-off day in San Mateo. Meeting time is at 8:30 am in Ryder Park (take 3rd Ave toward the Bay and look for the signs) We will celebrate our new project with a BBQ afterward.
     We will alternate our workdays in San Mateo with the on-going project in Arguello Park in San Carlos. This year, both our California Trail Days (Apr. 26) and National Trail Days (June 7) events will take place on the waterfront. See you there!

Geoffrey Skinner



HELP!

California Trail Days........................... Mark your Calendars!

April 26 - 27, 1997
Join the Celebration of the 12th Anniversary of California Trail Days!
Build 'Em Saturday, April 26, 1997
Walk 'Em and Ride 'Em Sunday, April 27, 1997

     Your involvement on April 26 and 27, 1997 will make you a part of an exceptional and growing state hiking trails program including California State Parks and hundreds of other public agencies and trail organizations around California!



Maps!

The Trail Center Map Committee has been hard at work this summer and fall. We mapped the Phleger Estate, Thornewood and Pulgas Ridge Preserves, Big Canyon and Eaton Canyon Trails in San Carlos, the Crystal Springs Trail along Canada Road, and portions of Huddart and Edgewood Parks.
      This winter we will begin by mapping Arguello Park in San Carlos, then we will work through summer mapping the preserves west of Skyline Boulevard. We will enjoy grand ocean views from the new Bald Knob Trail in Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve, map ancient sandstone outcrops and miles of new trails in El Corte De Madera Preserve, and later in the spring we will get permits to visit seldom-seen La Honda Creek Preserve. See the accompany schedule.
      Mapping involves little technical knowledge, which we can teach as you go. We spend a fair amount of time squinting at compasses and shouting numbers back and forth, but we also get to sniff the pine-scented air and study leaf patterns we might not notice while speeding along the trail. Best of all, unlike trail building, we don't get into poison oak. We provide tools; you bring lunch, water, and layered clothing. Join us!
      For further information call the Trail Center office at (650) 968-7065.

Map Committee Calendar

Winter/Spring 1997
Arguello Park, San Carlos
Follow the signs to the trail build from San Carlos Ave.
Feb 1 9:00 - 3:00*
Sky Londa (NE Corner of Hwys 84 &35)
We will meet for 10-15 minutes in front of Kings Mountain Trading Post for coffee; then drive to the preserves from here.
Feb. 22
Mar. 15
Apr. 19
May 24
Jun 21
July 26
9:00 - 2:00*
9:00 - 2:00*
9:00 - 2:00*
9:00 - 2:00*
9:00 - 2:00*
9:00 - 2:00*
* All dates are Saturdays. If you can only join us for the morning, that's fine too.
      RAIN CANCELS. Call Trail Center if there are questions. Or call Ben Pease at (415) 221-0487 or Darwin Poulos at (415) 428-0832.

Ben Pease



Hike of the Month...Grant Ranch County Park

Nestled along the slopes of Mount Hamilton, Grant Ranch County Park offers a variety of hiking terrain. The trails are old ranch roads which makes for easy footing and manageable slopes. Our 6-mile hike starts near the park headquarters. Access the Dutch Flat plateau by using the Dairy Trail, located off the road near the corrals. You'll come to a fork where you'll veer off the Dairy Trail (upper fork) and onto the Dutch Flat Trail. The trail rises about 1000 feet in vertical elevation At this point the hike offers a panoramic view of the East San Jose area and the park itself. By Mat Noall.



     
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