Trail closures upset bicyclists, hikers

Parts of the Bay Trail could remain inaccessible through December while another adjacent trail has been wiped out

The Faber-Laumeister trail in East Palo Alto, looking toward San Francisco Bay and the East Bay hills, was recently dug up to add some native plants that will provide cover for endangered bird and animal species during major floods. Trail users are angry because the path is not unusable after the work. Photo by Sue Dremann.

Update: A portion of the Bay Trail reopened on Monday, Feb. 12, and the Faber-Laumeister trail will be smoothed out. Read more here.


Users of two popular East Palo Alto baylands trails are angry that a flood-prevention project has led to the trails becoming unusable -- one potentially for the rest of 2018.

The Bay Trail is an important bicycle-commuter route, local residents say. It leads from the Friendship Bridge in East Palo Alto over San Francisquito Creek to the Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course, Geng Road and East Bayshore Road. East Palo Alto, Palo Alto and Mountain View commuters use the trails to get to and from work, including to Google and Facebook.

Sections of the Bay Trail were closed last fall to allow Pacific Gas & Electric to remove an abandoned gas pipeline and to do other work that will increase the floodwater capacity and the movement of water in the marshlands and out to the bay. The trails were to reopen on Feb. 3, but the contractor informed Santa Clara Valley Water District officials in mid-January of plans to keep the site closed through Dec. 28 due to technical and liability concerns.

Meanwhile, the adjacent Faber-Laumeister Trail, which stretches from the end of Runnymede Street and the Bay Trail to the San Francisco Bay, has become a choppy stew of dirt clods and mud after a federally mandated revegetation project.

The trail, located on top of a berm, was closed until early February for replanting with native flora, which was a requirement of the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority's (JPA) flood-prevention project. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service mandated that the JPA add native plants to the berm to create habitat for endangered species, including the Ridgway's rail, an elusive bird that lives in the marsh, and the salt-marsh harvest mouse. The species need high locations during high tide and flood periods with adequate cover from predators.

Now open again, the formerly hard-packed, meandering trail is impassable, users say.

The loss of both trails has irked those who use them for commuting and recreation.

"Our community really relies on the (Bay) trail and bridge for safe passage out of our neighborhoods," East Palo Alto resident Danielle Goldstein said in an email.

"East Bayshore is still in a dangerous condition (because of reconstruction of a bridge) and is extremely narrow and not safe for cyclists -- there is barely enough room for cars, let alone a shoulder," she wrote. "For many people, including me and my husband, there is no alternative."

Terry Barton, a longtime commuter, has used the Bay Trail for 18 years to get to his office in Menlo Park.

"The trail closure has forced me to use East Bayshore Road. ... Even at its best, this route has hazards. Given the lack of a safe alternative, keeping the trail close seems unwarranted," he said in an email. "The benefits of safety for commuters and reduced traffic along with the recreational resource used by people living nearby don't seem to have been taken into account."

Uriel Hernandez has forsaken his 15-minute bike commute to drive instead.

"I would rather sit in traffic for 45 minutes for a three-mile drive than risk getting hit by a car making a forced detour," he said by email.

Although the Faber-Laumeister Trail is technically open, it is in such poor condition as to be unusable, residents said.

"It is inexcusable that the JPA destroyed a heavily used recreation trail in East Palo Alto to compensate for habitat loss in Palo Alto," East Palo Alto resident Mark Dinan said. "The Faber-Laumeister Trail is now unwalkable 200 feet past the entrance, and what was once used by hundreds of people every week is now a hazard.

"Everyone is happy to see flood protection work being done, but the JPA needs to respect East Palo Alto in the process -- something I am not seeing from my point of view," he added.

Although the berm work is being conducted by the JPA, Jared Underwood -- marsh manager at Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex, in which the berm is located -- said he knows of no plans for the path to be graded. Staff has spray-painted a line through the new plantings, which they hope people will follow to delineate a new path in the way the old path was created: by foot traffic.

To address public concerns about the trails, JPA officials will hold a community meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 13, from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Lewis and Joan Platt East Palo Alto YMCA, 550 Bell St., East Palo Alto.

Though the Bay Trail contractor notified the Water District of postponement of the trail's re-opening, officials of the district, JPA and city of East Palo Alto met on Monday to try to figure out a way to keep the trail segments open.

"We realize it's a substantial inconvenience to go to East Bayshore Road, and it's not an ideal route. We're trying to find a solution," Materman said.

Gary Kremen, board chair of the JPA and Santa Clara Valley Water District, said the site is being used by the contractor as a staging area for trucks and equipment. He and the JPA are working hard through negotiations to get the trails reopened, hopefully very soon, he added.

The contractor has to take a hiatus from the work from now until through September anyway due to the Ridgway's rail mating and nesting season, which requires that the habitat not be disturbed, but the trail would have to be closed again from September through January, according to the JPA.


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4 people like this
Posted by FloodConcerned
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 9, 2018 at 7:33 am

Hope they can fix this problem, but flood control has absolute priority.

3 people like this
Posted by XYz
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 9, 2018 at 7:35 am

Users of..... are angry. "Angry Birds?"

Flood prevention is essential.

They angry at workers, city, county... without flood pevention project during next flood they would be angry at workers, city, county

They will be angry all the time -24/7

25 people like this
Posted by Not against the project
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 9, 2018 at 9:19 am

The trail users aren't mad about the project, they're upset that all accesses to an important alternative commute route are blocked. If it has to be, it has to be, but there should be some consideration for a temporary easement so people can get through and not have to mess up the roads.

I believe the solution is to figure out a temporary through way, similar to what MV did when the Stevens Creek Trail washed out.
Two things can be done to benefit all, it's not a one or the other thing.

25 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 9, 2018 at 10:09 am

Bayshore has no bike lanes, making that a dangerous detour during commute hours. They should close one of the car lanes and let the bicyclists use that. Cars can easily use Hwy 101 instead. Closing the bike route for years is very poor planning.

11 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2018 at 10:27 am

Reading through the article, it becomes more obvious what a complete screw-up this was. Unfortunately, this is the usual price we pay because you have so many agencies, and companies, working different parts of this. I'm not arguing in favor of a unified state, but, let's think about what didn't happen. Nobody thought about bicycle -commuters-. Nobody thought to time contractor work so that it didn't affect nesting endangered species, such as California Ridgway's Rail (AKA Clapper Rail), and the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse, and likely, though not mentioned, the Western Burrowing Owl.

SCVWD, JPA, FWS, PG&E, the Bay Trail contractors, all need some way to notify, to plan, and to coordinate activities like this with each other. And, they need some way to figure out who the constituents all are before they start digging.

Because, apparently, they didn't consider what would happen to bicycle commuters. Actually, it sounds like they weren't even aware that there are bicycle commuters.

Maybe there needs to be an App for this?

16 people like this
Posted by Just-FIX-it
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 9, 2018 at 11:15 am

Here's an example of a problem with a simple solution, but no one (responsible) will step up.
Get a mini-dozer/grater and smooth out the path. It it is as hard packed as it is said to be, the result should be a bikeable trail. Yes, paving or at least packed with gravel or grey-rock would be better. But a start can be made for 'little money' and almost no thinking! The quicker it is done the less disturbance to any wildlife concerns.

18 people like this
Posted by SP
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 9, 2018 at 11:35 am

Really bad coordination. This happening, at the same time as the bridge construction over San Francisquito Creek, at the same time as the Willow Road overpass contruction which has shut down all bike and pedestrian traffic over the freeway there. EPA is getting choked by Caltrans and the JPA.

8 people like this
Posted by bemused
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 9, 2018 at 11:48 am

The original project plan was to reopen the trails from the beginning of February through September. Work on the flood control projects cannot be done then because of the nesting habitat and this was well understood before the project was started. Since work cannot be done during those months, opening the trails in no way sets back the flood control project. Residents about the way even the simplest, most reasonable accommodation to residents (opening the trails for the months that work cannot progress), that was clearly specified in the original project schedule, was suddenly changed last minute with apparently no consideration of how it affects the community.

The suggestion to narrow East Bayshore to one lane again (after just reopening to two lanes last November) to accommodate bicyclists is more of this type of thoughtlessness. 101 is not just as easy for many EPA residents, it requires a major detour and getting caught up even worse in the massive traffic coming across the Dumbarton Bridge. The right solution is to reopen the trails until September when work is resumed on the flood control projects.

4 people like this
Posted by bemused
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 9, 2018 at 11:50 am

That should have read: "Residents are angry about the way..."

5 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 9, 2018 at 12:44 pm

Just fix the trail already and stop being so damned cheap and lazy. This is what living in California is all about.

9 people like this
Posted by Green Bean
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 9, 2018 at 12:53 pm

I agree that with all that earth moving equipment they could make a temporary trail for commuters to use!!!How slow can you be!

5 people like this
Posted by Mark Dinan
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 9, 2018 at 1:06 pm

Mark Dinan is a registered user.

I'd encourage anyone concerned about this issue to come to the meeting East Palo Alto Neighbors arranged with the JPA on Tuesday the 13th at the YMCA. You can find all the information about the meeting on the eventbright:

Web Link

5 people like this
Posted by path user
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 9, 2018 at 2:29 pm

Another great article, Sue! Thanks for bringing attention to this.

I agree with just FIX it. These trails should be rendered passable when the workers are not there, and let us through. Just doze 'em with a bobcat and put up a sign that says they are not done, pass at own risk.

Glad to hear the workers will not be there Feb - August.

7 people like this
Posted by path user too
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 9, 2018 at 2:43 pm

I agree, please open the path for the time being. I love to ride my bike from MV Stevens Creek Trail out to the bay trail and around the Palo Alto wetlands to the airport and over the Friendship bridge to Cooley Landing and the MROSD paths.

Speaking of Cooley Landing, is there to be any more activity there such as putting in interpretive signs and features? Will it ever be staffed as a bay life learning center? Sad that it got built but is not open. All I ever see there are people parked in the lot smoking.

4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 9, 2018 at 3:00 pm

Ah so it's the endangered bird hippies vs the bicycle hippies. Goes to show ya, can't please everyone all the time.

9 people like this
Posted by Daily bike commuter
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 9, 2018 at 3:27 pm

Thanks for covering this!

If the bridge were re-opened, I would use it on my daily commute (as I had for 3 years before it closed). I feel unsafe biking on Bayshore. I was counting down the days until I would no longer have to bike on Bayshore, and the announcement of an 11 month extension to the closure two days before the re-opening was a bitter shock.

I had emailed the city and the Water District last year asking for an alternate route, and though very courteous, neither could suggest a safe bike route alternative (though they referred me to each other). I agree with another commenter asking for a fix to allow bicycles and pedestrians to pass. So far we have not heard why this is not possible.

3 people like this
Posted by Still Another Citizen
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 9, 2018 at 3:38 pm

Now that there's been some light shone on this issue, I bet we see some action or at least a statement. Just be reasonable. If you forgot about it, admit it and fix it. No big woop, just do things properly.

8 people like this
Posted by Greg Scharff
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 11, 2018 at 3:02 pm

Through the efforts of Gary Kremen, San Francisquito Joint Powers Authority staff, City of Palo Alto staff, and Santa Clara Valley Water District staff, the trail should be reopened this Monday, Feb 12th. Opening the trail involved a mind numbing amount of cutting thru red tape, legal complexity and negotiations with the parties.

The trail is planned to be kept open until the endangered Ridgeway Rail mating season and final Bay-to-101 construction starts. This will be around May 1st.  After the final construction stops and the bird mating season is over, the plan is to open the trail permanently. This should be around Jan 1st, 2019.

11 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 11, 2018 at 3:46 pm

@Greg Scharff - I don't understand. This bicycle route is normally open during the bird mating season. Why does the bird mating season cause the trail to be closed this year?

Also, will there be a better detour this year than pushing bicycle commuters on to very congested Pulgas and Bayshore? Thank you.

7 people like this
Posted by bemused
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 11, 2018 at 7:05 pm

"Opening the trail involved a mind numbing amount of cutting thru red tape, legal complexity and negotiations with the parties." How did re-opening the trail during this time period go from being part of the original plan (that I assume all parties had agreed to and was legally sound) to a monster legal/red tape issue?

It would be great to get some clarification on

1. When is the Ridgeway's Rail mating season? Does it start May 1st? End May 1st?

2. When does construction resume? May 1?

3. When is the trail being closed due to the Ridgeway's Rail, and when is it being closed due to construction? Will the trail be closed annually going forward during Ridgeway's Rail mating season?

4. (From resident above): During the next trail closure, will a safe bike detour be provided, or will cyclists be expected to use Pulgas and East Bayshore.


12 people like this
Posted by Carol
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 13, 2018 at 7:58 am

This is ridiculous and short sighted. If we don't facilitate cycling whenever possible to reduce CO2 emissions, we risk sea level rise and this area will be inundated anyway. Say goodbye to the gorgeous rails. Come on Bay Area, we can do better than this. Bicycle commuters deserve better. If this was a road, you can bet they would coordinate with the wildlife agencies to work through nesting season....

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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