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Project: Sugarloaf Mountain Open Space - City of San Mateo

Photo Album: 1801-06 Sugarloaf Mtn 

The Trail Center started 2018 with a bang at Sugarloaf park (Laurelwood Park) in San Mateo.. We had about 40 volunteers show up on a beautiful winter day to continue constructing the new “Segment 3” trail at Sugarloaf. This new trail will connect the Amphitheater Trail that we built a couple years ago with a major trail junction on the south-central side of the park. This was our third workday here, following a poison oak removal day and regular workday both in September. We split into 4 crews to handle the large number of volunteers. We had a few crewleader trainees on hand to continue their apprenticeship towards becoming full-fledged crew leaders. Big thanks goes to the crew leading pairings of Lisa and George, Aaron and Karl, Hank and Eva, and Judd and Lianna. The trainees all did a wonderful job guiding their crews to create magnificent new trail.

Lianna and Judd tackled the most involved section that included about 100 feet of trail construction from scratch over fairly difficult conditions. The enthusiastic crew was able to nearly finish their section with the help of a few folks from other crews at the end of the day. This crew worked the uppermost section of the new trail that is within 100 feet of the existing Amphitheater Trail. Steep banks and clay were among just a few issues they had to deal with.

The crew just below was expertly led by Eva and Hank. Their crew not only finished the section of trail between the two switchbacks and built the lower switchback (including retaining structures), but they were also able to build—unexpectedly—the upper switchback and approaches. With just a few finishing touches, this whole section will be complete.

Karl and Aaron led the crews just below. This crew worked quickly to finish the trail all the way from the lower switchback to the crossing of the illegal bike trail. Impressively, they also built 3 drain dips along the way. A combination of Eva’s and Karl’s crews also started the process of closing off the illegal bike trail. They hauled large logs and a lot of cut brush to block the route, as well as building a few drainage structures on the old trail to help keep it from eroding even more severely than it already is.

Last but not least, the lowest crew led by George and Lisa expertly completed the trail from the illegal bike trail into the gully and all the way out to the proposed retaining wall. Not only that, but they also had time to start widening another 75 foot section of trail beyond the retaining wall.

As usual, the day concluded with fine refreshments delivered by Larry and a lively social hour. Thanks also goes to Judd who towed the tool trailer to the event. We were also able to award Trail Center shirts to 3 more volunteers: Tim, Lucy, and Melissa. The long-sleeved wicking shirts are only awarded to volunteers that attend at least 8 trail events, so these folks should be commended on their continued commitment to local trails and the Trail Center. The next time you see them, make sure you congratulate them on their accomplishment.

With a decent turn out of volunteers in April, we should have no problem cutting a ribbon to signify opening the new trail officially to hikers. I encourage you all to come out on April 21 to join the celebration and fun.

Dave Croker
January 22, 2018

Project: Hidden Villa - Los Altos 

Photo Albums: Long Bunny Loop

On Saturday, December 2, Trail Center completed its first work day at Hidden Villa open space and farm on a portion of the Long Bunny Loop Trail as it parallels an Adobe Creek tributary. We were lucky to have a very strong turnout of about 28 volunteers, including many teenagers.

We had a cool, overcast day for pleasant working conditions. The area of the Long Bunny Loop we worked on weaves among bays and oaks, with occasional openings for more shrubby vegetation. Fortunately, there was only a small portion of poison oak.

The key goals for this work were to replace deteriorated retaining and step structures, improve switchbacks, general tread widening, and brushing. This was also an opportunity for several crew leader trainees to put their recent training to work.

Bill Farrell’s crew focused on replacing two retaining walls totalling 24 feet at the first switchback in the project area. Members Dave K., Frank H., and Lucy made short work of the first wall and did a great job installing and filling in the tread at the second one, before moving on to other tread improvement tasks a bit downhill on the other side of the creek. Bill noted a couple additional places in this stretch that could use more retaining walls.

Crew leader trainee Helen Shaughnessy, backed up by Larry Stites, worked with a very enthusiastic group of high schoolers and one parent to tackle the next two switchbacks. They needed to restore the width of the landings and tread throughout. This involved a lot of dirt hauling to avoid sending the soil onto Bill’s area below. They also trimmed back some downed logs and removed debris that had narrowed the trail.

Hank Magnuski oversaw the next section, joined by Woody Collins and several other experienced volunteers. They did lots of brushing and cleaning of the inside edge to bring the corridor back to a more comfortable width.

Lianna Jewett, a trainee buddied with Hank, and assisted by Jerel, led another crew of teens. They carefully brushed back a section that included some poison oak and performed a lot of tread improvement in their initially assigned area and then further up the trail. Later Hank’s and Lianna’s teams decommissioned a steep shortcut across a gully by scarifying the trail and adding logs to discourage further use of that path.

Karl Mosgofian, in his first outing as a crew leader trainee, focussed on rebuilding a set of steps that had been overtaking by slough filling them in on one side and erosion on the other. Crew member Tom Morse, who knows a thing or two about step construction, and another volunteer not only replaced the planned 9 steps, they also built them with returns that will better hold the soil and then had time to replace an additional 3 steps to finish out the whole course. We were grateful that Jesse, a Hidden Villa staff member, was willing to run up additional materials to this crew and others throughout the day.

Finally, Scott Farnworth, a crew leader trainee and Hidden Villa staffer, led the third group of teenagers (who were out for their second TC project) and a parent, along with experienced volunteer Melissa. Their team was able to construct about another 32 feet of retaining walls at the uppermost section of the site along with doing some tread work. In this area, Woody ended up trimming back some rock and doing a bit of stone work to make a gully crossing more easily navigable.

This was a really satisfying start to working with Hidden Villa to help maintain their trails. We appreciate all that the property management team of Wes Mills, Jesse Dolan and Scott Farnworth did in getting the materials purchased and staged close to the site to allow the crews to get working quickly. We also acknowledge March Sidel, who did a walk-through with Judd to help prioritize projects and get agreement on the work with the stakeholders at Hidden Villa. We look forward to returning in the coming years to giving more love to the Bunny Loops and other trails that Hidden Villa identifies.

Judd Volino

Project: Djerassi Artists Residence Program 

Photo Albums: Djerassi Work Day

On Saturday, October 21st, twenty one volunteers improved the trails at the Djerassi Art Property. This was day two of a crew leader training that began on October 14th, and took place at a unique property located on the west side of Skyline Blvd off of Bear Gulch Road West. It was a beautiful cloudless day, with cool temperatures and sunshine throughout. A recent rain on Thursday considerably improved the workability of the soil from the previous Saturday. Staging was accomplished at the “Old Barn,” which is a picturesque building in the middle of the property, located down a long steep hill.

Four areas, each a spur trail to various art objects created by resident artists over the years, were targeted. The Trail Boss for the day was Dave Taylor.

In site A, the “Roots to Crown” area, Dave Croker was the Crew Leader mentor and he was assisted by Crew Leader Trainees, Lisa Jewett, Eva Franko, and Karl Mosgofian. Volunteers included Claudia Jones and Duc Le. This particular project combined the laying out of an alternative trail, the cutting of the trail, and all the associated tasks with creating a finished product, including brushing and tread work. The decommissioning of the old trail was also required. The result was a considerably safer and more user friendly trail that led one down to a piece of art (a covered stump), an albino redwood, and a spectacular redwood burl on a fallen tree. Before it was completed, this project required the additional assistance of a number of other volunteers so that it could be completed the same day. Their efforts at the end of the day after hiking back to the trailer were much appreciated and enabled closure to this specific trail project.

Site B was the “Nash Charred Sculptures,” “the City of Salt,” and the deconstructed redwood bench area. Larry Stites and Aaron Hieber acted as the Crew Leader Mentors for the sole trainee, Tim Moore. This effort required the construction of two new entrance ramps that provided more inviting and safer entrances to the art work located above and below the road. This required benching and tread work and the removal of a large number of dead redwood spires. One volunteer, Gerard Shuba, assisted in his effort. Particularly noteworthy was that today’s efforts earned Gerard his “green hat” for participating in four Trail Center work days.

Site C was the brushing leading to the “Pixilated Redwood” site and the “Nettle Meadow.” Helen Shaughnessy took the lead in this effort under the mentorship of Hank Magnuski. Frank Hubinsky provided volunteer support. This project involved debris removal, brushing, and the straightening of the trail to make it more visible and walkable. The result was a more inviting and aesthetically pleasing approach to the pixelated redwood area art piece, the trail along the stream, and the trail leading up to the observation bench.

Site D included the switchbacks and trail improvements in the “Pixelated Redwood” area. Under the mentorship of Judd Volino, Xulia Suero, George Willis and Lianna Jewett supervised three volunteers from the Glenwood Correctional Camp and crew leader trainees not in a supervisory role. This effort primarily involved expanding a switchback to make it longer and hence more user friendly, and putting in drains to help protect the steep trail from erosion. The trail was cleaned up to make it more visible. The clay steps were left in place. The crew also brushed the imposing redwood branches under which a wood bench sits and evened out the platform to allow the bench to sit flat again.

A last effort involving Judd Volino and Aaron Hieber, included the removal of a large tree branch growing across the trail and some other brush near the Nash “Nest” area. This was done as volunteers were leaving the area. Of concern was the safety hazard presented by a significantly leaning redwood tree, but fortunately, it decided to fall another day.

The day’s efforts were helped by Kevin Kelsey of Djerassi and his wonder dog, Kuma. Kevin used his Off Road Vehicle to facilitate the transport of the Trail Boss and others and to carry tools up the hills to the trailer at the end of the day. He also provided interested volunteers with a map showing the location of some of the various art pieces on the property.

Special thanks to Eva Franko and Judd Volino for their coordination with Felicia Herron from Djerassi to make this training day a success and to ensure that things went smoothly. Judd and Eva also helped considerably in ferrying volunteers from the entrance gate to the Artists Barn. Aaron Hieber handled check in duties. Larry Stites performed his usual stellar job with snacks and drinks. Finally, a shout out thank you to Hank Magnuski and Dave Croker who received the initial contact from Djerassi, followed up with Felicia, and made two scouting trips to the property.

Submitted by Dave Taylor, Day Supervisor

Project: Djerassi Artists Residence Program 

Photo Albums: Crew Member Training

On Saturday, October 14th fourteen Crew Leader Trainees participated in classroom modules led by Crew Leader Trainers Judd Volino, Bill Farrell, Dave Taylor and Dave Croker, and outdoor training workstations overseen by Larry Stites, Judd Volino, Hank Magnuski and Dave Croker.
Of the fourteen trainees, nine were Trail Center members: Karl Mosgofian, George Willis, Helen Shaughnessy, Lianna Jewett, Kevin Moore, Tim Moore, Aaron Hieber and Lisa Jewett – the last two trainees having participated in training in prior years’ trainings. Hidden Villa had two participants: Ron Badger and Scott Farnworth. UCSF and Sutro Stewards each sent a person to participate: Xulia Suero and Mark Sullivan, respectively. Felicia Herron from our host venue, Djerassi Artists Residency Program participated as well.

Most participants were shuttled in larger vehicles from the Djerassi Bear Gulch parking area to the Artists Barn where the morning’s training took place.

After enjoying food and beverages organized by Larry Stites, trainees sat down to Judd Volino’s introduction to the Trail Center. The floor was then turned over to Felicia Herron to welcome everyone to Djerassi, and provide some history of the property and its mission.

Classroom training began with Judd Volino’s Crew Leader Basics, followed by Bill Farrell’s amusing and memorable “Wait, Wait. Don’t Trails Me!” safety presentation, then Dave Taylor’s Leadership presentation. There was helpful discussion during Dave Taylor’s presentation around challenging crew members. Opportunities for discussion hadn’t been factored well enough into timing; so shifting from the printed schedule, the group broke for lunch just prior to Dave Croker’s Structures presentation.

After Dave Croker’s presentation, the large group of trainees broke up into four smaller groups to hone skills at the four workstations mentioned above. The first crew at each station was responsible for carrying tools down to the site. The last (fourth) crew was responsible for carrying tools back to the trailer. Determination of which tools were needed for which worksites, as well as the hike down to the workstations ate into some of the training time, particularly for those with the longest hike from the tool trailer.

The workstations for the afternoon of training day were as follows: 1) Trail Layout with Dave Croker, 2) Tread with Larry Stites, 3) Drainage with Judd Volino as trainer, and 4) Brushing & Finishing with Hank Magnuski. Trainees spent approximately 45 minutes at each station, then rotated to the next workstation during a 10-15 minute transition time. By the time each trainee group had been through their 45 minute sessions at each station the day was drawing to a close.

During the hike back to the tool trailer, some participants took the opportunity to enjoy some of the sculpture installations as well as do some very light cleanup on the trail between the main road from the Old Barn and the Footnote Bridge

Tools were stowed, and the locked trailer was left parked at Djerassi until the follow week’s workday. Participants shuttled back up to the parking are at the Bear Gulch gate at the end of the day.

And a new crop of crew leaders is in the works!

Submitted by Eva Franko, Crew Leader Training Coordinator

Project: Sugarloaf Mountain Open Space - City of San Mateo

Photo Albums: 1709-09 Sugarloaf Mtn PO Abatement and 1709-16 Sugarloaf Mountain

The Trail Center added to its list of new trail construction projects with the start of work on “Segment 3” at the City of San Mateo’s Sugarloaf Mountain open space, which adjoins Laurelwood Park. Segment 3 refers to a conceptual route from Sugarloaf’s master plan. This route will allow for a connection between the “grand junction” of several fire breaks/roads on the west side of the park and a switchback of the Amphitheatre Trail. This project will replace the lower two-thirds of an illegally built and poorly sited trail and bring the upper third of that trail up to a sustainable standard for grade and drainage.

Trail Center began the process of realizing this trail by collaborating with the city’s Park Planning Administrator Greg Meek to identify viable projects in the master plan in the fall of 2016. In January 2017 volunteers, including Dave Croker, Kathy, Judd and Bill, conducted several scouting trips to evaluate possible corridors, resulting in a flagging of “control points” for a proposed path. Greg Meek then made several visits to walk the path at various points in the spring and early summer to ensure there were no plant species of concern in the corridor.

In September, Kathy, Judd and Dave C. returned to the corridor and were happily surprised to find most of the flags from the winter were still in place. They made a few tweaks and added more intermediate flag to clarify the route.

On September 9, “Poison Oak Team 8,” consisting of Frank F and Frank H, Tom, Tim, Karl, Kathy, Judd, and Dave C (running Shindaiwa gas trimmer) worked to clear the corridor of significant stands of poison oak. Much appreciation goes out to this crew for being willing to take this on. Several of us donned the Tyvek bunny suits. We were able to complete the work by early afternoon. Frank H and Karl get special recognition for carrying the emergency water tank on their backs while following Dave.

On September 16, we hosted a work day for general volunteers. The main goal was to complete the remaining brushing and duffing required for the new corridor and to build a narrow starter tread. We were thankful the temperatures crested in the lower 70s, with the clouds lifting to reveal full sun as the day progressed.

We staged the trailer on the paved trail east of the restrooms in Laurelwood Park. We had a great turnout of around 25 volunteers, including a very game group of teenage boys. We all hiked to the use trail via the Salson Trail.

Dave Taylor’s crew worked on the segment that includes a switchback north of the existing trail. This segment passes through a mixture of meadow and mature oaks. They were able to remove a lot of duff from the future tread area, remove some remnant poison oak, and brush back their upper most segment. The teenagers did a bit of widening of a portion of the use trail that we’ll be incorporating into the final route.

Hank and his team of largely seasoned volunteers worked on the portion between the gully and the use trail. They continued behind Dave T’s crew to work on rough benching of that section, leading up to the first switchback.

Aaron’s crew worked on the south side of the gully, including around the turn with the oak/buckeye intertwined and on the oak and bay-shaded hillside. They completed lots of brushing and duffing. They had the most challenging terrain, as the corridor is on a steep hillside at that point. But the volunteers dug in their heels and completed the initial bench cut.

Finally, Bill’s crew worked duffing and brushing the southernmost segment. This segment has a few short stretches between trees that we’ll have to finesse and possibly supplement with some retaining walls to get a good grade and solid bench, but the crew got a great start. As is our convention, we did not clear the first 50 yards or so of trail from the future trailhead to discourage use before the trail is ready.

We’ll wait until after the winter rains have added more moisture to the soil to work on creating the full width and lateral grade for the tread. Also ahead is reworking the use trail that connects to an Amphitheatre switchback and completing a small switchback where the new route joins the use trail. We’ll also consider a potential structure for crossing the gully, and a design for the trailhead, which crosses a fire road drainage ditch.

Thanks to Larry for bringing snacks and drinks and to Kathy for volunteer coordination and helping Judd get the trailer out the east end of the park. Thanks also to Helen and Karl for contributing photos to the album.

Judd Volino

Project: San Mateo Memorial Park - Mt. Ellen Trails

Photo Album: 1708 - Memorial Park

On Saturday, August 19, we returned to San Mateo County’s Memorial Park to work on the Mt. Ellen Summit Trail, continuing both above and to the west of the work completed on the May 13, 2017 workday.

The weather was clear, with temperatures in the low 50’s at the outset and the high 70’s when the workday ended. The trail tread is soft Doug fir and redwood duff or a mix of organic and sandy soil made workable by last winter’s rains. The work area was almost entirely under tree cover. Our 24 volunteers included a nice mix of experienced and first time volunteers

As on previous workdays, we staged the trailer and volunteers parked in the lot immediately before the park entrance kiosk. Thanks to Rangers Dave Vasquez and Matt Auda-Capel for reserving this area, providing lumber and stakes for the retaining walls, and coordinating with us on the work scope. We accessed the Summit Trail by hiking up the eastern end of the Mt. Ellen Nature Trail.

Dave Taylor’s crew began at the western junction of the Summit Trail with the Nature Trail and proceeded uphill to clean the inside edge, brush, remove roots, and improve drainage at two switchbacks, heroically fending off stinging yellow jackets at one location. Beginning 0.1 mile above the eastern junction of the Summit Trail with the Nature Trail, Hank’s crew installed a retaining wall to divide the upper and lower approaches of an eroding switchback, improved the switchback drainage, installed a retaining wall along a portion of trail that had slid off the hillside during the winter rains, restored the trail width and replaced a badly split fence rail. Above them, Judd and Larry’s crew followed in Judd’s Shindaiwa wake, brushing, defining inside edge, restoring trail width, and adding a switchback drain and drain dips.

Approaching the summit from the east and from the west, the plan was for the crews to meet and complete all Summit Trail work. The extensive undergrowth, however, did not allow this in the time available. The remaining work on the Mt. Ellen Summit Trail includes the portion from 0.1 miles west of the Pomponio Trail junction to 0.1 miles east of the junction. The scope includes brushing, restoring tread width, and adding drains at switchback drains and drain dips, estimating a crew of 15 volunteers to complete in one workday.

Thanks to Dave Taylor for driving the trailer, to Kathy for coordinating and signing in our volunteers at the beginning of day, and to Larry for catering the snacks and beverages at the end of the day.

Bill Farrell


Project: Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit - United States Forest Service

Photo Album: 1707-20 Incline Flume Trail

For our annual trip to the Sierras, the Trail Center partnered with  with Friends of Incline Trails (FIT), Tahoe Rim Trail Association (TRTA), and Tahoe Area Mountain Biking Association (TAMBA) to continue work on the Incline Flume Trail, near Incline Village, Lake Tahoe, Nevada.

Ten volunteers set up camp in a not-so-backcountry location behind the lodge at Diamond Peak Ski resort. We worked on crews that combined Trail Center and local volunteers, which provided a great opportunity to share skills and experiences. The weather was sunny, but a bearable temperature.

Trail Center is acknowledged in the FIT August 2017 newsletter. You can also see some of us at work in the segment of this Tahoe Fund (a backer of FIT) video:

Read more about the Tahoe Fund's role in Incline Flume Trail project on their site.

Project: San Mateo Memorial Park - Mt. Ellen Trails

Photo Albums: 1705-13 Memorial Park and 1703-29 Memorial Park Scouting

Our efforts to improve the Mt. Ellen trail network in San Mateo County’s Memorial Park continued on our Saturday, May 13, 2017 work day, which was focused on the Mt. Ellen Summit Trail. Bill Farrell identified this area as needing attention in the summer of 2016, and after our wet winter, the trail in some places was at risk of going back to nature with overgrowth.

As we had when we worked on the Mt. Ellen Nature Trail last September, we staged the trailer and volunteer parking at the lot immediately outside the main entrance of the park. Thanks to Ranger Dave Vasquez for taping off the area (and for coordinating with us on the work along with Ranger Matt Auda-Capel).

Our 15 experienced volunteers were greeted with clear skies and cool temperatures. The trail is mostly covered by a fir, oak, bay, and redwood canopy, and the soil has an organic texture that holds moisture without being mucky. We accessed the Summit Trail by hiking up the eastern end of the Nature Trail and started at the junction of the two trails near the “N” post.

We were excited to have Dave Taylor back on the job as a crew leader, and his crew began at the junction and covered the entire leg to first switchback, cleaning the inside edge, brushing, removing roots, and cleaning out a stretch bounded by a railing. Later they leap-frogged to two other sections. Crew-leader-in-training Karl Mosgofian’s team took the next leg, working to restore good drainage at the first switchback, scraping off much low vegetation from the tread and removing lots of soil from the inside edge to bring back the tread width. They moved on to several more sections before the day was out. Hank Magnuski’s crew was at the front initially and helped restore more bench at the next switchback where the outside edge had been lost in the turn. They also moved a lot of soil in the turn on their leg and took the opportunity to heavily cut back shrubs on the uphill side of the trail to ensure a clear corridor for years to come.

In several cases, as crews leap-frogged, volunteers were able to do a second pass on the trail to further improve the tread. After lunch, this all-pro team seemed to get a second wind and covered much more footage than you’d expect from this few people. We reached a more open section where lots of grass was growing and cleared that, concluding near the hairpin turn where the trail begins its westward run on the ridge. In total, nearly every foot of about 1/4 mile of trail was touched in some way to bring it back to standards.

We have enough work left that it will probably make sense to use our planned August 2017 return to Memorial to complete maintenance of the Summit trail. And there are a couple spots from the work day where we might want to follow up: possibly adding a retaining structure around the roots of a large Douglas fir where there’s not much bench left, and replacing a cracked railing on the first leg..

Thanks to Kathy Diamond, our volunteer coordinator, who ensures volunteers get good communication about the work day and manages sign-in, and to Larry Stites who provided the always welcome post-work snacks and beverages. Finally, we wouldn’t have had tools without the continued willingness of Dave Taylor to drive the trailer, which always seems to provide an extra challenge (in this case, it required hard-wiring the lights harness).

Judd Volino

Project: Alum Rock Park - City of San Jose

Photo Albums: 1704 Alum Rock Park and 1703-26 Alum Rock Scouting

On Saturday, April 22, we returned to Alum Rock Regional Park to work on the South Rim Trail switchbacks above the confluence of North Penitencia and Arroyo Aguague Creeks. The trail has been closed due to slide damage and a large downed tree and root ball across the trail. (Original plans were to return to Sycamore Switchbacks Trail to complete the work begun on December 6, 2016, but two severe slides during the winter storms now require major engineering and reroute of the trail, and Sycamore will remain closed for the foreseeable future.)

The weather was mostly clear, with temperatures in the 50’s at the outset and in the high 60’s when the workday ended. Following winter rains, the soil was quite workable. The work area was almost entirely under tree cover.

Volunteers parked in the Youth Science Institute lot, and Ranger Huy opened the gate to allow Dave C with the tool trailer access to the staging area at Sycamore Picnic Grove, immediately adjacent to the Sycamore Switchbacks trailhead.

Approximately 30 volunteers helped make the day a success. Dave Kison and Ranger Valerie greeted the arrivals in the parking lot, distributing parking passes and collecting sign-in sheets before directing them down the ½ mile Penitencia Creek Trail to the base of the switchbacks. After another ¾ mile hike to the top of the South Rim Trail switchbacks, the work began. Aaron’s crew had the upper portion of the trail, brushing and widening the overgrown tread, removing outside berms, defining the inside bench, brushing overhead, and adding a couple drain drips. What a difference! Dave C’s crew (the Earthmovers) cut the trail into the hillside to divert around a slide (undercut by a fallen tree), improved the ramp onto SJ Park’s engineered solution through a tree root ball (where same tree had come to rest), and opened a scenic vista at a switchback where fallen trees had blocked the view and posed head hazards. The scope for Larry’s crew included brushing, definition of inside bench, inside drains at switchbacks, new drain dips, and one awesomely beautiful new viewpoint. The top of the trail served up a spectacular panorama for lunch, complete with a view of MC Hammer’s house (maybe).

The Trail Center believes that the trail can now be opened to hikers. Ranger Mike is considering what work the City may want to complete prior to opening (road grader removal of rock slide on Penitencia Creek Trail and possible improvements to a large retaining wall at the lowest end of the switchbacks). The Trail Center is also considering a return to Alum Rock later this year to complete the lighter work on the lower half of the switchbacks and to add a retaining wall to the aforementioned trail diversion.

Bill Farrell

Project: Sugarloaf Mountain Open Space - City of San Mateo

Photo Album: 1703 Sugarloaf Mountain - Amphitheater Trail

After four consecutive cancellations due to regional rainouts, washouts, mud slides and road disasters, the Trail Center finally launched its 2017 season at Sugarloaf Mountain in Laurelwood Park of San Mateo City. We had a day of perfect weather and 37 (!) volunteers eager to start helping to repair the damage from this winter's wonderful storms.

Thanks to the suggestion of Kathy Diamond, we were able to find a workable venue that had easy access and repairable problems, a not insignificant task considering that many trails and access roads on our list are still closed. There were three main problems on the Amphitheater Trail (which the Trail Center constructed a few years ago) that needed our attention: mucky steps at the beginning of the trail, a mucky causeway further up and a super-mucky switchback that caused serious problems in proceeding up the trail.

We were fortunate to have three experienced crew leaders to direct our volunteers. Bill Farrell was assigned step repair, Dave Croker took on the switchback challenge and Luke Lempart handled everything else in the middle. We also wish to thank Larry Stites for again dealing with our after-work refreshments, Kathy Diamond for rounding up the volunteers, Justin Knowles for helping with the survey and Dave Croker for trailer hauling.

There are very steep steps at the beginning of this trail, and continuous water seepage was making the step surfaces slippery, muddy and unsafe. Drains would be difficult to do given the terrain, so a plan was made to top off each step with two or three inches of base rock that would provide for some drainage and at least improve the traction on each step. The rock would also provide a hardening for this very heavily used staircase. Kathy arranged for a ton of base rock to be delivered, and the City came through on the request. Midway, however, we thought we would be significantly short of material required, so Bill creatively mined nearby gravel and rock to supplement the fill used. These larger rocks greatly improved the potential drainage and strength of the stairs and by the end of the day the really hard working volunteers had filled and topped each step. The resulting improvement was dramatic.

Luke's crew handled a lot of drain cleanout and refurbishing. After a winter season such as we had it becomes very obvious why good drainage is needed. Our consensus, after looking at long stretches of this trail that were in perfect condition, is that we did a pretty decent job of planning and building at the front.

The mucky causeway was fixed with some inside retaining walls to divert the seepage and all the base rock we could haul to the site to fill in the top surface. (Note: Dave C. and Kathy returned later in the week to this section to create more of a drain behind the retaining walls.)

Dave's switchback project required digging into the hill to remove a slide, repairing a lot of the tread and creating an inside ditch to divert the water.

There were some other bonus repairs we were able to complete at the end of the day, and the net result was a tremendously improved and hike-able trail for the community.

Thanks to all the volunteers that helped make this happen. It is an excellent beginning for our 2017 year.

Hank Magnuski
Trail Boss