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Palo Alto considers relaxed rules for Foothills Nature Preserve entry

Original post made on Dec 30, 2021

After an initial spike, the number of visitors to Foothills Nature Preserve has tapered off in recent months, prompting city officials to further loosen rules for entering the once exclusive destination.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, December 30, 2021, 9:39 AM


Posted by TR
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 30, 2021 at 11:45 am

TR is a registered user.

Are they kidding with this argument over bike access?

- Obsolete rule based on prior access restriction
- Alternative is dangerous and problematic
- They don't want it because people might ride the wrong way IN the park? Seriously? But ignoring the fact that people who ignore one way streets probably ignore the sign anyway.
- They don't have the staff to enforce the one way road but they think they a) have the staff to enforce the passage and b) could give GUIDED TOURS? What the heck is that idea. Oh, right Palo Alto City Council idea to prevent DOING something.

- Opening the park worked out fine after some BRIEF adjustment time. (duh, Forbidden Park was opened and more people wanted to see it. That should have been expected for a while)
- Now more people are enjoying a lovely park and they aren't causing trouble
- We are arguing over ANOTHER dumb rule that is a legacy rather than being sensible and simply allowing bikes to cross the threshold. NOTE: Bikes ARE ALLOWED on both sides of the gate. The ban is on crossing the imaginary line.

Posted by TimR
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 30, 2021 at 12:45 pm

TimR is a registered user.

A main thing that keeps the trails in Foothills NP so wonderful is the ban on bikes on the trails (same goes for Los Trancos Park). Bikes basically ruin them for pedestrians, and require monitoring and closure when it's wet, so the bikes to totally destroy them.

And in my opinion, opening Gate D to bikes would only temp more people used to riding on Arastradero trails to continue onto the trails at Foothills. Maybe a very big sign would help, but Arastradero is so popular with cyclists, I don't see how temptation wouldn't be there. And with no enforcement capability, it would be hard to stop (and no one wants to end up being a "Karen" these days). As it is, I do see tire marks on the trails in Foothills occasionally, but I suspect they're from local kids riding "after hours."

As for Los Transcos not having a problem with cyclists breaking the rules, it's not a very popular park, and anyone heading up there just goes to the much more popular Montebello. So it's not a Foothills NP situation up there.

Any decision about allowing easier bicycle access MUST first and foremost consider potential impact on the condition of the trails. It's Foothills NP greatest feature, and must be carefully protected.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 30, 2021 at 1:00 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

I was hoping for more information.

What about the numbers of people who are buying season passes? How much money has been generated by the gate fee? How much has the work to change the name, put up signs, etc. cost against the revenue from gate fees and season passes? Who are buying the season passes, are they from Palo Alto or non-residents? How many senior passes compared to general passes?

As for the bikes, there are obviously many bikes using the trails. The biggest problem is if you encounter a bike and need to move out of the way, you might end up with a steep cliff either side which makes moving aside impossible or you might end up wandering into poison oak. I think there are also many mtv strollers which have big wheels and are also a problem on narrow trails for similar reasons. A mtv stroller, hiking stroller, can be loaded quite heavy and is likely to do as much damage as someone on a bike. They are wide and very difficult to pass.

I think a better article covering the costs/revenue is necessary.

Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 30, 2021 at 3:49 pm

Donald is a registered user.

'The current rules just penalize people who follow the rules.'

I would say that the CURRENT LACK OF ENFORCEMENT of the rules is what penalizes those who are obedient. It is not the rules themselves that are the problem. Rules without enforcement are always difficult.

Posted by Deborah
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 30, 2021 at 3:57 pm

Deborah is a registered user.

It seems there is some confusion. The commission is in no way considering allowing bikes on trails. Bikes on trails are not allowed. If you encounter one, please alert a ranger.

Changing the rules to allow bikes to legally travel from Arastradero Preserve to Foothills means allowing bikes to go from a 25' wide compacted, gravel/rocked road to the paved one way road that connects the valley to the vista/overlook. That's all.

Posted by Deborah
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 30, 2021 at 4:00 pm

Deborah is a registered user.

Seems to me the commission has taken to route familiar to almost all council and commission decisions, that being the most cowardly possible.

Posted by TimR
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 30, 2021 at 4:39 pm

TimR is a registered user.

Deborah, but to ride up the gravel Arastradero park road to Gate D basically requires a bike with some kind of "off road" capabilities (I've tried it on a road bike, and had to walk both up and down the steep part--and I have extremely good bike handling skills). And someone with that kind of bike is out there for, well, off road/trail stuff. Foothills doesn't offer any of that. What it does offer for cyclists is paved roads, which is why road cyclists who are already on Page Mill often stop by Foothills for the views. I just don't see how offering mountain bikers (and others with similar bikes) a pass into Foothills gives anyone very much. And it would certainly temp some to break the rules and bomb down the Coyote Trail, for example, when no one's looking.

Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Ventura
on Dec 30, 2021 at 5:48 pm

Jonathan Brown is a registered user.

Palo Alto City Council needs to also consider opening access to Tierra Arboles/Los Trancos Road. That would substantially increase connectivity to other trail networks and alleviate bicyclist frustration by offering more loop and access opportunities. Right now there's just a fence separating the end of the trail beyond Oak Grove and the connecting road.

Opening Gate D to bikes makes sense. Many people have bikes that can handle dirt and road. I have been in this quandary many times encountering the gate after sweating up Arastradero Creek Trail on my bike (I've even biked up to Foothills to go on a run, then biked home). Clearer, more prominent signage and increased enforcement are already needed given the number of bikes and e-bikes in the preserve. I have encountered bikes on the "no bikes allowed" trails, and there's not much recourse when you're 25 minutes' or more away from the entrance station and/or there are no rangers in the hut.

Other access points should also be considered at Madera Point, Alexis Drive, and Ramona Road.

Posted by Jeremy Erman
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 31, 2021 at 7:55 pm

Jeremy Erman is a registered user.

Despite the hoopla over non-residents historically not being allowed into the park, the city for years only staffed the main entrance on weekends and holidays, so the prohibition was essentially only in effect on weekends. But without regular staffing, how can the city claim to know how many people visited the park before it was opened to everyone? Are there cameras or sensors at the main gate? Did someone count cars in the parking lot and guess how many people came in each one? Did anyone ever do a survey to find out if non-residents were visiting the park on the five days a week when no one checked IDs?

Posted by Serg
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 1, 2022 at 6:56 pm

Serg is a registered user.

What most people don't know is that, most of the employees that works at Foothill Nature Preserve are part-time employees and don't get pay more than $20 dollars per Hr. The CSD manager should think about that and recognize that to live in this area on $20 bucks per Hr is painful. I know couple part-time employees that I see at the kiosk working from 8 am till the park closes. I spoke with them and they told me that manager don't care a thing for them. I am an union guy and I think it is not right for a city like PA to don't realize that. I see all the Palo Altans driving up there in their Teslas without thinking about how the city is compensating those employees.

Posted by
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 2, 2022 at 11:35 pm is a registered user.

What about ditching the fee for Palo Altans since we pay for the park when we pay our taxes?! Why should we have to pay twice?

Posted by Robert Neff
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 3, 2022 at 6:20 pm

Robert Neff is a registered user.

@Jonathan Brown - I think there is private property between Los Trancos Road and the gate leaving the Park. Unfortunate. A connection to Los Trancos Road would be terrific.

There are all kinds of bicyclists. There are cyclists who really want to see all single track accessible. The proposed change does not serve them. There are mixed-terrain cyclists who are looking for more possibilities, on a mountain bike, gravel bike, hybrid, or just a road bike with 25 mm tires (Good luck!). I'm one of those. I don't mind the limitation of staying off the single track, because the connection would let me string together rides on pavement, gravel, and dirt in loops connecting the preserves, Palo Alto, and Los Altos Hills. Commissioner Reckdahl's description that this rule only penalizes the rule followers is spot on, and I am disheartened by Chair Cribbs' assertion that it would be fine to just keep this rule for at least the next few years.

Posted by S. Underwood
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 3, 2022 at 6:36 pm

S. Underwood is a registered user.

@Serg -- CSD Management is a disaster indeed. That's known to folks paying attention, so don't feel like you are alone.

Posted by Hanky
a resident of Southgate
on Jan 3, 2022 at 7:01 pm

Hanky is a registered user.


Posted by Serg
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 4, 2022 at 10:12 pm

Serg is a registered user.

Indeed Underwood. Shame on Palo Alto CSD. Also not forgetting to mention that those part time employees have no work benefits at all.

Posted by Reid
a resident of another community
on Feb 26, 2022 at 12:30 pm

Reid is a registered user.

Wait, they don't have enough staff to enforce one-way-cycling-only, but somehow have enough staff to keep bicycles off the fire road? I'm looking at a huge map of the trails in the Bay Area, and it's insane that every park is an island and silly rules are preventing people riding from park to park or connecting through heavily trafficked roads. I can see why hikers don't want people on mountain bikes bombing down trails, but I can't understand why we can't use a fire road to connect to other parks.