News

City eyes new trails between Baylands, foothills

Palo Alto hopes to create a regional trail network to link local open-space preserves

Palo Alto is flanked by pristine landscapes, from the sprawling Baylands in the east to the rolling foothills in the west, but connecting these popular destinations with trails has been a challenge for the densely developed city split by a major highway, two busy traffic arteries and a set of railroad tracks.

Now, the city is looking to create two new trails to provide nature lovers from throughout the region easy access between the various open-space reserves. On Tuesday night, the Parks and Recreation Commission endorsed a staff proposal to plan for one path that would take travelers along the Charleston Road, Arastradero Road and Fabian Way and another one that would follow Matadero Creek.

The city already has a Bay-to-Ridge trail, but it is largely conceptual, steering nature lovers along California Avenue through the center of Palo Alto without the benefit of directional signs. Greg Betts, the city's director of community services, wrote in a new report that the "urban trail" is "only depicted on web site and printed trail maps."

This route was, however, bolstered by Stanford University's recent completion of a trail route near Deer Creek and Page Mill roads that leads to the Interstate 280 underpass at Arastradero.

The two new paths would complement another major project that the city is pursuing to improve east-west connectivity in south Palo Alto -- the construction of a bridge over U.S. Highway 101 at Adobe Creek. Officials hope that by integrating the 101 project into the broader Bay-to-Ridge effort, the city would have a better chance to acquire grant funding for the new bridge.

Betts said Tuesday that the purpose of Bay-to-Ridge trails is to connect as many parks and open spaces as possible and to make it easier for residents of Palo Alto and surrounding cities, particularly Los Altos and Mountain View, to walk or bicycle from one nature preserve to another. He called the urban trail a "regional concept" that seeks to attract as many users as possible to local nature preserves.

"If you're hiking the 13-mile track up the hill, you'll have a place to stop in parks to refresh yourself at restrooms or drinking fountains," Betts told the commission.

A southern 13-mile trail would seek the "most central and direct route" between the Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Center at the edge of the San Francisco Bay and the Daniels Nature Center on Skyline Boulevard, Betts said.

"Along the way the trail route would pass as many urban parks as possible, would pass by the Arastradero Gateway Educational Center and Foothills Park Interpretive Center, and would provide safe routes away from busy streets and intersections, whenever possible," Betts wrote in his report.

The commission agreed with staff that creating a new urban trail in south Palo Alto is a great idea, though members had some reservations about the details of the proposed Fabian/Charleston/Arastradero Road route. Though Betts wrote in his report that this trail would take advantage of "existing safe on-street and off-street bike and pedestrian routes," Commissioners Deirdre Crommie and Jennifer Hetterly both argued that the Charleson-Fabian Way portion of the route is not attractive to recreational users. Crommie said this portion of the route is "too busy" for bicyclists and is more suited to work commuters than to nature lovers. Hetterley called Fabian Way "an unpleasant place to ride."

They both proposed an alternative route that would use Wilkie Way instead of Fabian Way to get to Palo Alto from Mountain View and Meadow Drive instead of Charleston Road for the east-west connection. The commission voted 6-0 to support the two proposed south Palo Alto urban trails, though it included in its approval Crommie's and Hetterly's suggestion to use Meadow Drive.

The creekside trail along Matadero is even more tentative than the one pegged for Charleston. Betts noted that the Matadero trail "would take considerable planning and negotiation with the Santa Clara Valley Water District to construct." Major challenges include finding ways to cross Alma Street, the Caltrain tracks and El Camino Real, he wrote in his report.

"For the time being, and until grant funding for the 101 Overcrossing can be secured, this trail route would serve as a guide for long-range trail planning and construction," Betts wrote.

View the proposed Bay-to-Ridge trail routes

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Foothills Park user
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 25, 2012 at 9:15 am

Foothills Park is the crown jewel of Palo Alto's park system, but there is currently no way for families to get there without driving cars. We badly need a family-friendly bicycle route from the residential part of Palo Alto up to the park. I hope the route they choose is not so convoluted that it takes all day just to get there.

Do we really want to use Arastradero Road for this route? South of Page Mill Road, Arastradero is very narrow with no bike lanes. That route is also very out-of-the-way for people coming from midtown or downtown Palo Alto. A more direct route following Stanford Ave and Old Page Mill Road would be much more desirable.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by FrankF
a resident of Ventura
on Apr 25, 2012 at 11:01 am

FrankF is a registered user.

What a wonderful set of ideas. I live on Matadero Ave near Caltrain, we would love some kind of over/under pass to cross Alma and Caltrain. Currently you have to go to West Meadow or California Ave to cross.

To: "Foothills Park user" - I'm not sure of the particular route this plan envisions but there is a very nice route to Foothill Park using Arastradero. Probably not envisioned here since it goes through Los Altos Hills. Try this route sometime - Arastradero (just before you go under 280) left on Purissima; right on Elena (this is the only big hill); right on Natoma; right on Black Mountain; right on Altamont - you will join Page Mill a few hundred yards before the park entrance.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 25, 2012 at 11:24 am

And when this scenic route gets to the Baylands and Byxbee Park, will it go past the proposed Measure M "Anerobic" Garbage factory? Nice view.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Foothills Park user
a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 25, 2012 at 11:37 am

FrankF - is your route suitable for families? I.e., pre-teen children pedaling their own bicycles or toddlers in trailers? I don't think a narrow road up a "big hill" with no bike lanes is suitable for most families.

I really hope that the new route allows families to enter Foothills Park from the Arastradero Preserve.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 25, 2012 at 12:10 pm

trails are something everyone can use and will add to the city, the opposite of the idiotic dog run park off el camino they are going to blow 2 and 1/2 MILLION DOLLARS on!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 25, 2012 at 12:14 pm

>> We badly need a family-friendly bicycle route from the residential part of Palo Alto up to the park.

Is there a way to get up that park other than Page Mill Road, because I don't think that road can be made "family friendly", it is a hazard not to mention that bike riders are irresponsible, and now that there are so many houses up there there is a lot more traffic too.

I don't think in my life I've ever seen a "family" riding together to go up to Foothills Park.

Maybe a cable car or ski lift? ;-)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by FrankF
a resident of Ventura
on Apr 25, 2012 at 12:20 pm

FrankF is a registered user.

to: Foothills Park user - Yes, I have taken my children on this route. They were Middle School age when we first tried. Elena does not have a bike lane but it also is a wide street with almost no traffic on it; it is also a residential street so the drivers on it go slow and I have always found them to be courteous.

As far as preteens goes - I don't think there are many who could ride all the way up to foothill park regardless of the street; it's just that it happens to be up fairly high.

It's true that we could have a dedicated trail (like on Arastradero between 280 and Foothill); I'd certainly support that but I was suggesting if you wanted to try something this weekend that route is one of the best (safest for bikers, gentle up slopes with that one exception).


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Foothills Park user
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 25, 2012 at 12:32 pm

There are entrances to Foothills Park other than Page Mill Road. The "Bay-to-Ridge" hiking trail mentioned in the article enters Foothills Park from Arastradero Preserve. However, the road on the Foothills Park side is one-way, making it currently impractical for bicyclists. Hopefully that can be changed as part of this new project. The biggest stumbling block is how to safely get families across Hwy 280. All of the existing routes are very flawed. There is a very poorly designed bike lane on Page Mill Expressway under the freeway, but I am guessing that no parents will let their children use that.


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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 25, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Paul Losch is a registered user.

Paul Losch from the Parks and Recreation Commision here.

I want to dispel the notion that $2 1/2 million dollar is being spent on a dog park at El Camino Park. Completely untrue.

There are major changes at El Camino Park, funded through Utilities, to add an underground reservoir there. This is a state mandated project, required to assure adequate water supply in the event of an earthquake or other catastrophic event.

One benefit of this project is that major improvements above ground can take place as part of it. The main thing is the opportunity to make major improvements to the playing fields and parking area at El Camino. A multi-use, lighted, turfed field is part of the plan, an improved parking and drop of area, and a renovated grass field also are part of the design.

The Parks and Recreation Commission considered the idea of also recommeneding to City Council including a dog park across Alma from the main park. The Commission came to the opinion that it was not the best use of funds, and did not include it in its recommendation to Council. Council, which is its prerogotive, decided to include the dog park in the scope of work.

The incremental cost of adding the dog park is around $200 thousand, not $2 1/2 million. Please be sure to understand the facts, not hearsay that can get out of control.

Now back to the bike trail matter.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 25, 2012 at 1:17 pm

At what cost, and at the expense of which vital public safety and infrastructure needs that remain unfunded? Yet another example of frivolous spending on what might be a desired, but certainly not an essential need. Just the same old routine from our city leaders, department heads, and elected officials. They proclaim that the city is facing unprecedented financial challenges and annual budget deficits, and as a result, proceed to make cuts in the vital areas of public safety and infrastructure. At the same time, they go about the usual business of catering to the special interests and fluff groups and allocate millions of dollars for bike bridges, golf course remodels, playground construction, public art, commercial district make-overs, and now a hiking trail.

After all of this irresponsible spending that has occurred and continues to occur, these same leaders have the audacity to actually float the notion of proposing a bond measure and tax increase to pay for the truly essential needs which they have neglected. If the city is truly facing a budget crisis, then why are they even discussing these non-essential projects? By claiming a financial crisis to justify cuts, and then turning around and spending on these non-essential projects, does nothing more than make our city leaders look inept and irresponsible. When will someone stand up for the sake of responsible spending? When will someone set some financial priorities and have the fortitude to say no to the special interest groups? Enough is enough.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 25, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Paul Losch is a registered user.

Marrol...

With all due respect...

The Parks and Recreation Commission reviewed with City of PA staff some ideas about how to connect via hiking, bicycle, and other access between the Baylands and the Foothills, inter alia.

These are good discussions for the community to have. Care to participate beyond your observarions on line?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident of
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 25, 2012 at 1:52 pm

There is currently a trail (old road) that goes through Arastradero preserve connecting to Foothills Park, so you can bike to Arastradero and simply walk or bike (about 2 miles) Once you get to Arastradero, there are no cars to deal with, just hikers and other bikers. Crossing 280 is the problem.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Foothills Park user
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 25, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Resident of - yes there is a trail connecting Arastradero Preserve to Foothills Park. However, that trail is big "NO BICYCLES" signs at the boundry. Also, the Foothills Park side is a narrow one-way uphill road, that is not practical for small children.

These problems may be easily fixed by the city, but the bigger problem is how to get families across Hwy 280 from the residential parts of the city to Arastradero Preserve. The bike lane along the median of Page Mill Expressway is a major death trap. No parent that I know will allow their children to use that bike lane. If the city can fix this 100 yard long gap, the rest of the job is pretty simple. There already are decent bike lanes along Stanford Ave, then Old Page Mill Road gets you to within sight of Hwy 280. Getting across the freeway is like the Berlin Wall for child bicyclists.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Under the current financial circumstances Mr. Losch, I would expect the PA city staff to be discussing ideas on how to balance the budget and pay for our essential civic needs without floating the possibility of another tax increase. That is where, with all due respect, their energy should be entirely focused on. Quite frankly, for them to be discussing projects like this when we're in the midst of a financial crisis is highly irresponsible in my opinion. It sends a mixed message as to where their priorities lay and makes no sense. This endeavor would undoubtedly involve an expense that we simply can't afford.

Under favorable circumstances I agree that having a connecting path from the Baylands to the Foothills would be a wonderful addition to our community. However, it is a desired commodity and not an essential one. Once the city can balance the budget and fund our vital needs, then I would have no issue with exploring the affordability of such a project. Until then it should be priorities first.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by scott
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Apr 25, 2012 at 10:36 pm

Can anyone explain how Alma ever became a bike route as shown on the map in this story?! Especially considering that Bryant is a so close by, it amazes me that cyclists willingly choose to ride on Alma. Oh yes, they may have the right to do so, but to what end? I am especially amazed at the number of cyclist who choose to ride south on Alma between Homer and well, just about all the way to Castro Street in Mountain View. There is no shoulder, no sidewalk, fast moving traffic, and no where to go.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JM
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 26, 2012 at 11:14 am

I'm starting to get tired of all these grand plans on paper.

In case you don't know about it, the underpass below 101 to Bayland has been closed all the way into fall this year for some kind of reconstruction. As much as I can tell the old temporary fence has been removed. Need a new temporary fence? But close it for whole summer!!!(winder is always closed).

And also you have all those talks about overpass 101, which was expected 7-10 years later, while Mt. View is building two at the same time(101 and 85).

I can guess what's holding Palo Alto back. That's not my point here.

I feel with all these grand plans on paper, the city staff are just building up their resumes and dosing out consulting jobs. As simple as that.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Civitas
a resident of another community
on Apr 27, 2012 at 7:44 am

Good to read some of the old school negative perspectives on this topic. Palo Alto never changes. Good, civic-minded ideas shot down in a hailstorm of negativity. What a town.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 27, 2012 at 11:09 am

Paul Losch:
Thank you for breaking out the cost of the dog run at El Camino Park, but $200K is nothing to sneeze at.

You say the Parks & Rec Commission "reviewed with City of PA staff some ideas about how to connect via hiking, bicycle, and other access between the Baylands and the Foothills, inter alia. These are good discussions for the community to have."

What's the point of discussions and visioning and wishful thinking when there's no money to pay for existing needs? I agree with Marrol.

The City Council should put a freeze on all spending—budgeted or not—until it figures out how to pay for the existing infrastructure backlog and funding a police building.

There's no shortage of ideas, good, civic-minded or otherwise. Ideas keep city employees busy hiring consultants and applying for grants—though grants never cover the full costs of a project. There IS a shortage of money.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 27, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Precisely the double-speak that frustrates me Midtown Pat. For the past several years our city leaders have proclaimed this unprecedented financial challenge that we're facing. Annual budget deficits, declining revenue, and the need to make cuts in public safety and infrastructure. They have already floated the notion of a tax increase in order to pay for vital civic needs that have been neglected. And what is their public response? They continue to hold meetings and spend on park upgrades, bike bridges, public art, commercial district make-overs, playgrounds, and dog parks. Unreal. What message does that send. Unreal.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 27, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Marrol, if you have any ideas on how to get the council off the City Hall Kool-Aid, please let us know.

I—and others—have been fighting the fiscal irresponsibility for years. It's impossible to get a single council member to get a clue. I can't help wondering if they manage their home budgets the way they manage the city budget. Probably not. They don't mind spending our money on frivolities.

As I stated, there should be a freeze on all spending and hiring (an urban forester? a social worker to run a youth mental health coalition?). Each and every request for releasing money should be tested with one simple question: "Is this expenditure ESSENTIAL for running the BASIC NEEDS of the city?".

Few of the requests would pass the tests. But the council doesn't know how to say NO.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 28, 2012 at 11:10 am

I certainly value the many amenities that Palo Alto has to offer Midtown Pat. I would never want anyone to get the impression that as a community we should never support or fund the programs and services that make our city so special. It just can't come at the expense of our foundation needs. Often time I get the impression that our city leaders and elected officials are so attentive at being so entirely inclusive that it diminishes their common sense when it comes to spending. Just because we say no to a special interest or niche group, no matter how virtuous their pursuit, doesn't mean that we're opposed to what they're trying to accomplish or create. People are so quick to personalize the decision making process. It does however have everything to do with what are financial priorities should be, and what we can afford to fund with civic dollars.

Again, I am not opposed to the idea of some day having new hiking trails, bike bridges, dog parks, playgrounds, etc. All I'm asking is can we please wait until we can afford to do it. What frustrates me and I believe many others is the practice of spending on these non-essential endeavors when it is very apparent that we can't balance our city budget or pay for our vital infrastructure and public safety needs. I seriously question our city leaders who proclaim a fiscal emergency, and in the next turn cater to special interest groups with more irresponsible spending. Seriously? And to cap it off, they actually have the audacity to approach the possibility of yet another tax increase to pay for the vital needs that have been long neglected.

Ultimately I'm not sure what will influence city hall to back up their rhetoric with action. I will choose to remain respectfully vocal at public meetings, as well as on forums such as this. I'm sure many voters will be considering these critical issues at the ballot box as well.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by far2faat
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2012 at 6:49 pm

There are at least two potential problems with the Matadero Creek route for a hiking/biking trail. First, in at least one location, at the Waverly Street bridge, there is no room to walk or bike, because the property lines on both sides of the creek are adjacent to the concrete flood walls. Second, there are some sort of high voltage lines buried alongside the creek, so paving would be necessary to keep people and the lines safe. That would not only add to the cost, but it would also somewhat defeat the point of not making the route along an existing street, with appropriate bike paths.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 5, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Another example of idiotic Palo Alto politics catering to ideological concepts that have no practical value. I know every road, trail and cut through in the Bay Area and I guarantee that almost nobody will travel this whole route. Partly because a good chunk is on city streets, not trails. There are so many nice trails in the woods with no cars, etc. that are infinitley more desirable than this route.

This is a waste of time and money that is put in place so these officials can pat themselves on the back while spending others' money. And you cant bike it because most of it is off limits to bikes. You cant even cross through a gate that allows bikes on both sides but does not allow you to pass through the opening????


 +   Like this comment
Posted by missing the point
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 5, 2013 at 4:59 pm

John - you miss the point of this trail. Sure, most people will not walk or bike the entire trail at once. However, the trail will Palo Alto residents a safe and car-free way to access the baylands and hills, starting from their homes.


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