Baylands trails set to reopen Monday

Portion of Bay Trail to open to bike commuters; destroyed Faber-Laumeister trail to be smoothed for hiker access

Sections of the Bay Trail closed due to construction were set to reopen Monday, according to the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority. Another trail, the Faber-Laumeister, which was torn up during native planting to provide habitat for endangered species, will be smoothed out as well.

The trail sections, which lead to and from the Friendship Bridge that borders East Palo Alto and the Palo Alto Golf Course, were closed due to construction that is part of the flood protection work on the lower part of the San Francisquito Creek east of U.S. Highway 101.

Users had expected to re-enter the trails on Feb. 3, when construction was to end temporarily during the nesting season for the Ridgway's rail, an endangered bird species that lives in the marshes. But days before the opening, the JPA announced the trail would remain closed through Dec. 28, angering many bicycle commuters who use the trail to get to and from work. JPA officials said the extended closure was due to the contractor's concern about technical and safety liability issues.

Concern was compounded after the Faber-Laumeister trail, a dirt track that traverses the top of a berm over the marshes at the intersection of the Bay Trail and Runnymede Street, became inaccessible after it was dug up to accommodate the native plants, which are required by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as mitigation for the flood work. Trail users said it was impassable and had limited access for East Palo Alto residents to already limited open space options.

But on Monday, hard work to negotiate a solution resulted in approving the trails' reopening, said Gary Kremen, board chair of the JPA and Santa Clara Valley Water District. The effort was led by Kremen, Palo Alto City Councilman Greg Scharff, JPA Executive Director Len Materman and Water District and city staff.

"Opening the trail involved a mind numbing amount of cutting thru red tape, legal complexity and negotiations with the parties," Scharff said in a posting on the Palo Alto Weekly's Town Square discussion forum.

In an email to JPA board members, Materman said the negotiations with the contractor succeeded at the end of last week. The Friendship Bridge and trails are to reopen by the end of the day Monday and will remain open until at least early May. East Palo Alto staff cleaned the trails last week and Palo Alto staff will maintain them while they are opened.

"This relatively small issue required an interagency approach by two cities, the SCVWD and JPA," he said.

Scharff noted on Town Square that the trails would close again sometime after May 1 when the contractors return to complete their job. The trails would reopen permanently around Jan. 1.

Kevin Murray, JPA senior project manager, said in an email to concerned residents that crews will be working on Tuesday to smooth the footpath on the Faber-Laumeister trail.

"This work is being done to restore a safe pathway for hikers to follow from the Bay Trail out to S.F. Bay, similar to what existed before the restoration plantings were installed along the berm," he said.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which manages the area, is asking for community members to remember that this trail is off limits to bicyclists since it not a managed trail with a maintained surface. The trail is also off limits to pets, since the footpath traverses a National Wildlife Refuge that is home to federal and state protected species, he noted.

Workers will be watering the recently installed restoration plantings on Tuesday.

"It's important that these plantings enjoy a high success rate both to ensure their value as habitat for protected species in the area and to allow for the continued open access of the Faber/Laumeister foot path to hikers," Murray said.

Materman added a third piece of welcome news in an email to the JPA board. Caltrans has indicated to the JPA that East Bayshore Road will be restriped late next week, meaning the project to replace the bridge under U.S. Highway 101 on the East Bayshore side is done.

"If true, this is important because this route is the alternative route when the Friendship Bridge is closed," he said.

A community meeting to discuss the trails issues related to the JPA flood-control project with Materman, Santa Clara Valley Water District and city of East Palo Alto staff will take place 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.


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12 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 12, 2018 at 8:17 pm

Will all the trails be open, including the direct route from Geng Road to the bridge to East Palo Alto? Or will bicycle commuters have to detour to the dirt path behind the golf course and airport, which can be very dark and muddy (if the rain ever starts again).

22 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 13, 2018 at 9:06 am

Can someone please post maps of which trails are open and which trails are closed? All these different reports are very confusing.

6 people like this
Posted by uhhhhhhh
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 13, 2018 at 9:53 am

The direct path between Geng Road and East Palo Alto will remain closed until December. It was supposed to be open in February.

"During the site visit, the Construction Manager represented that Teichert was willing to consider opening the bridge and trails closest to S.F. Bay after February 3rd, however; after Palo Alto identified the extent of additional work and ongoing maintenance of the trails that would need to occur in order to open the trails and maintain their safety, the contractor determined that to ensure public safety it would be prudent to keep the trails closed. Subsequently, Teichert has confirmed in writing that their position is that to open the trails would result in a material transference of liability and expensive orders for any costs incurred."

email 10:
Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by bemused
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 13, 2018 at 11:23 am

According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service:

"The breeding season of California clapper rails* begins by February. Nesting starts in mid-March and extends into August. The end of the breeding season is typically defined as the end of August, which corresponds with the time when eggs laid during renesting attempts have hatched and young are mobile."

*the California Clapper Rail was renamed the Ridgeway's Rail in 2014

(Web Link)

Why is construction being allowed to resume on May 1st before the breeding season of this endangered species ends?

Like this comment
Posted by Archaeopteryx
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 13, 2018 at 2:16 pm

Once they pair up mate and lay eggs, they are less disturbed by the equipment. They'll have already mated and will be on their eggs or with chicks by May.

Like this comment
Posted by Can someone answer?
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 13, 2018 at 4:21 pm

does anyone know whether that long wooden boardwalk is open for use/walking?

2 people like this
Posted by Geng - Friendship
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 14, 2018 at 4:07 pm

As of Monday, 2/12, the path from the Baylands Visitor's Center around the airstrip connected to the Friendship Bridge, the bridge was open, and the connector from the EPA side of the Bridge to O'Connor was clear and usable. So one can ride from Embarcadero to EPA.

The path between Geng Road and the Friendship Bridge was still blocked off. That, for me, is the most useful part. For me, having to go around the duck pond makes cycling to work 3x the time, rather than 2x the time, which makes it hard to justify not taking a car. From the Friendship bridge, the path looks in fine shape. How good does it have to be to support bicycle traffic?

Thanks to Greg for all his effort so far, and to Sue for staying on this!

6 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 18, 2018 at 10:30 pm

Tried to do a home-> work trial run on my bike today so that I could get out of my car for the greater good. Was dismayed to see the fences up, blocking my planned route. Rerouting through EPA to bayshore was both dangerous and nerve wracking due to the narrowness of bayshore, with not even a designated bike lane to separate me from the speeding passenger vehicle traffic. Never mind the rough and littered side of the road that I'm expected to ride through without getting a flat.

Like this comment
Posted by Yep
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 20, 2018 at 11:50 am

Trying to find a safe alternate route through or around an active and fluid construction area can be hard if not impossible. I'm glad this inconvenience is just temporary.

4 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 20, 2018 at 3:56 pm

Until December 28 is a very long "temporary" closure, especially when the official detours is really dangerous. Why didn't they at least paint bike lanes along the detour route if they know it is going to be a year or more?

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

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