OWN VOICE. ~ InPerspective by Gregg Dieguez —
We seem to have another situation like oligarch Vinod Khosla closing Martin’s Beach, only this time it’s atop Quarry Park. Residents report County Parks is restricting access to longstanding trails there due to a property owner complaining about vandalism. Here’s what’s been reported, and the impact on your recreational opportunities in El Granada.
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El Granada resident Matt Haugan has posted a description of this problem on NextDoor https://nextdoor.com/p/BWFBNBGgBBnW?utm_source=share&extras=MTc1Nzg4NDg%3D.
“My kids just got back from a ride through Quarry Park. Said there were closed signs on numerous trails. County Park rangers on site said these trails were closed to riding and soon they will start giving out tickets.”
Resident Susannah Cantrell reports as follows:
“One of my very good friends – local EG hiker and mountain biker was up riding and going from QP (Quarry Park) to Gods Trail today (as he has done for decades) and was stopped by Rangers and the property owner of 800 EG Blvd who has caused a big issue with blocking his gate. The rangers and owner told my friend all QP biking trails will be shut down and they will be “barbed wiring” off the access points to cross from QP to GGNRA because the 1 property owner has asked for this and it sounds like County has officially agreed. They also told my friend that by shutting down the bike trails in QP it will reduce traffic across trail systems and spare the owner having people crossing the 10 feet needed over his road, despite this being done since his family owned the property. Protecting 1 property owner by shutting down access to 1000’s – it’s absolutely insane and NOT in the interest or health of the community.”
So it appears that, at tax payer expense, Quarry Park rangers are using resources to put up security measures for that property owner, including reducing biking and hiking traffic in Quarry Park to facilitate the extra security. The trail systems within QP they are now saying are closed have been there for years – they should be grandfathered by Prescriptive Easements as they were there long before County took over … they were motorcycle and bike trails, according to longstanding residents. These restrictions cut about 8 miles of single track biking trails from our local park – some of which are also used by many of us joggers, hikers and dog walkers. One wonders how there are Parks’ resources to spend on time for signage, ticketing, monitoring and enforcement to stop families and children from using public trails for healthy outdoor recreation – in order to support security efforts for a wealthy private property owner – while Parks can’t find the resources to support more of our asks for community improvements including: off leash dog walking areas, fire mitigation, and other QP community improvements.
As I understand the intent when the O’Neill family donated the 478 acres to POST, and then POST donated those lands to San Mateo County, you should be able to hike from the beach at Mirada Surf, up through the eucalyptus forest of Wicklow, through Rancho Corral de Tierra to Montara Mountain (map below). You then have the opportunity to trek down to Pacifica or over to the trail along Highway 1 adjacent to the Devil’s Slide tunnel. In 2014 when the County got the Wicklow property from POST: “The existing facilities like parking and restrooms at neighboring Quarry Park make for a natural gateway to the Wicklow addition”, said Parks Director Marlene Finley
Local residents seem energized enough to move forward with legal action against the property owner, and file for prescriptive easement for the 3 access points – the pedestrian path at Lions Gate and then 2 points that go from County land to GGNRA that cross over the road to 800 El Granada Blvd. There are years of digital data with GPS coordinates which substantiate the longstanding use of those trails – as was reported in our prior article about the locked gate. This may be the first time we see the dog walker, biker, hiker and birder community coming together for one cause. This closure will impact thousands of people – all losing access to mountain biking and hiking trails that we have used for decades, because of concerns from one wealthy property owner.
I have not seen these new restrictions. When I last hiked Quarry this past Friday, I noticed much wider trails (13′ and up) designed to improve access for fire and emergency vehicles, but I only hiked the lower and middle portions of the park. The residence is further uphill. I have not yet made contact with Parks or the property owner for statements, and will update this article – or post another one – when I do. There are two sides to every story.
On the surface this seems a simple conflict between the right to quiet enjoyment of his property by a homeowner and the longstanding rights to recreational enjoyment of residents with prior Prescriptive Easements. But there are complications in this instance. This same property is involved in health and safety issues regarding the locked gate atop El Granada Blvd, and has a parcel granted by County Planning in 2003 that looks like it was gerrymandered in the best tradition of power politics. Further, there are homeowners who bought their houses specifically to enjoy the mountain biking in this area. There may also be owners who AirBnb or VRBO their properties based on the promise of immediately available mountain biking trails. So in addition to inconvenience and/or loss of recreational opportunities for their families, there can be economic losses to nearby properties.
Imagine you bought a ski house adjacent to a ski area with the availability to ski out your front door and then use the mountain. Then someone cuts off your access to the top half of the mountain, and you can only ski the lower slopes – and there’s no longer a single, mountain-top connection point among the trails. Perhaps you have to drive hours around to the other side of the mountain range and climb the far side to get to the top and ski. That disruption seems comparable to the new access restrictions at Quarry Park. There’s a real loss of value to you and to your property. It’s not just mountain bikers that are impacted – it’s any use of almost 8 miles of trails that were in existence and use long before County owned that park. The new restriction also cuts off access to GGNRA lands which County and POST stated was the purpose of the land purchase in the first place.
I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t forecast how this will turn out. If you care, I suggest you make your feelings known to the MCC email and the County, both Parks and Supervisor Horsley. Susannah already has….
Final thought: there may not be much public response from the County on this for a while, because lawsuits are often discussed in Closed Sessions, Board members prohibited from public statements, and there might be several around this issue…
Mr. Dieguez is a native San Franciscan, longtime San Mateo County resident, and semi-retired entrepreneur who causes occasional controversy on the Coastside. He is a member of the MCC, but his opinions here are his own, and not those of the Council. In 2003 he co-founded MIT’s Clean Tech Program here in NorCal, which became MIT’s largest alumni speaker program. He lives in Montara. He loves a productive dialog in search of shared understanding.