Over the last decade, the university has built a new football stadium, numerous multimillion-dollar classroom buildings, including a new business-school building funded by Nike running-shoe magnate Phil Knight. Microsoft's Bill Gates is the namesake of a computer-science building, and there are many other elegant structures around the burgeoning campus that sport notable backers.
In addition, hundreds of housing units for students, professors and workers have been added to the campus, which also boasts one of the area's best traffic-management plans that has resulted in more than 30 percent of Stanford's non-medical employees walking, biking or using mass transit to get to work each day.
But amid all the hoopla and hustle bustle of the university's aggressive building program, one of the simplest projects ever tackled by Stanford — to build two public recreational trails on the periphery of its north and south campus — is a colossal disappointment.
After more than 10 years of discussion with the Board of Supervisors that ultimately awarded the university the right to develop 2 million square feet of campus buildings, and later litigation filed by the Committee for Green Foothills challenging the environmental impact report, only one of the trails is ready for public use, and the northern trail, which Stanford proposed be built in San Mateo County, very likely will not be built at all. Neighbors at Stanford Weekend Acres on Alpine Road strenuously objected to the trail design and placement. And so far, San Mateo County Supervisors have supported their position and turned down Stanford's offer to pay the entire cost of a trail built just a few feet from the road.
One short stretch of trail, along Alpine Road west of Interstate 280, has been accepted by the town of Portola Valley, and construction is expected to start on that segment in a few weeks. It will end at Arastradero Road.
We doubt if the nearly completed trail along Page Mill Road and over a ridge off Deer Creek Road, will be popular with local residents or the university's faculty and students. The first leg of the trail, to Deer Creek Road, is paved and about to open to bikes. But from there, it is gravel for hikers only and unceremoniously ends at a county bike and hiking trail along Arastradero Road, just north of the Interstate 280 underpass. It may not be a trail to nowhere, but it is close.
Looking back on the head-butting between Stanford, the county and the environmental community, Stanford was determined to keep both trails from crossing university lands, which then could have linked them with other trails in the Arastradero Preserve. Instead, rather than creating a couple of trails that would have provided a great hiking experience for local users, the end result is that one trail, which Stanford wanted to locate along traffic-choked Alpine Road, will not be built at all, and the other has no parking area and does not lead to a place anyone would want to go.
It is sad to see this outcome for what could have been a pair of very appealing trails. Perhaps that was the problem — Stanford really doesn't want to provide access to its lands in light of how popular the Dish loop has become. The Dish hiking trail is one of the most popular activities Stanford provides to local residents, as well as its own students and faculty. A companion trail over the southern edge of the foothills to Old Page Mill Road and under 280 at the existing cattle tunnel would have enabled hikers to reach the trails in the Arastradero Preserve, and, at least for a time, was the preferred route.
But this sensible and appealing alignment was not acceptable to Stanford and the result is a noisy paved trail along busy Page Mill Road with a short gravel extension that unceremoniously winds up on Arastradero Road where it connects to a bike lane that passes underneath 280.
This trail is an embarrassment that we hope Palo Altans and the Board of Supervisors do not forget, so that the next time Stanford seeks a development agreement, the first question will be: How about building those trails we thought we were going to get back in 2006?
Perhaps that was the problem — Stanford really doesn't want to provide access to its lands in light of how popular the Dish loop has become.
YOUR TURN: Could Stanford have done a better job making new trails user-friendly?