POST breaks ground for new and improved trails at Pillar Point Bluff

Press release

Posted by on Thu, August 14, 2008


Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) broke ground yesterday for new and improved trails at Pillar Point Bluff, a 123-acre property it owns near Moss Beach. Long a popular destination for local joggers, dog-walkers and hikers, the informal network of trails just north of Half Moon Bay is undergoing much-needed restoration thanks to grants from the California Coastal Conservancy and gifts made through the Jean Lauer Memorial Land Protection Fund at POST.

When the trail improvements are complete this fall, two miles of paths lined with native plants and wildflowers will extend across the scenic bluff top, including a portion of the 1,200-mile California Coastal Trail. Two new access points to the property will also be constructed, as well as a wheelchair-accessible trail.

POST purchased the bulk of Pillar Point Bluff from private owners in 2004 for $2.7 million. The acquisition was made in partnership with the California Coastal Conservancy, which contributed $1 million toward the purchase with an eye toward installing a segment of the Coastal Trail. The Conservancy has since contributed another $528,650 to POST to cover the entire cost of trail planning, design and improvements as well as the first year of trail management and continued habitat restoration on the land. Once completed, the new trails will be patrolled by the San Mateo County Parks Department through a management agreement with POST.

"POST does not typically engage in this kind of trail-building, but when the Coastal Conservancy approached us with a grant to manage the construction of the trail, we knew we could work together to provide this resource for the public," said POST President Audrey Rust. "We have already been active in restoring wildlife habitat at Pillar Point Bluff, and now that the necessary trail permits have been secured, we can move into the next stage of stewarding this magnificent property, a vital link in the Coastal Trail."

"With their spectacular views of coastal reefs and the Mavericks wave break, without question these will soon be among the most popular trails on San Mateo County’s beautiful coast," said Sam Schuchat, the Coastal Conservancy’s executive officer. "We are very grateful to POST for stepping up and making this project possible."

Pillar Point Bluff offers sweeping views of the coast, mountain ridges and farmland. The oceanfront bluff drops 170 feet to the tide pools of San Mateo County’s Fitzgerald Marine Reserve below, where seals sun themselves on rocks and pelicans, cormorants and seagulls swoop down, looking for a meal.

The improvements at Pillar Point Bluff include installation of a one-mile portion of the Coastal Trail called the Jean Lauer Trail, which will run along the edge of the bluff. The new trail will be set back a short distance from the existing path, portions of which have already been severely damaged by erosion.

The trail segment is named after the late Jean Lauer, a former land manager for POST who spent four years working for the nonprofit land trust to preserve local open space for public enjoyment. Jean’s parents, Allen and Kathleen Lauer, of Portola Valley, created the Jean Lauer Memorial Land Protection Fund at POST with gifts from family and friends to ensure the permanent protection of Pillar Point Bluff and make the creation of the trail possible. The honor of naming the trail after Jean is especially fitting because, as part of her work, she was one of the first to highlight the need for habitat restoration on the property and help make it a high priority for protection by POST. Additional trails will be located along existing pathways, while others will be realigned or closed to restore wildlife habitat and decrease erosion.

Three years ago, POST began habitat restoration at Pillar Point Bluff by removing pampas grass plants from the site. At the time, approximately 25 acres of the southern portion of the property were infested with pampas grass, originally imported to California as an ornamental garden plant. Since then, POST has removed thousands of pampas grass plants from Pillar Point Bluff, virtually eradicating the highly aggressive, invasive exotic from the property. Without the overwhelming competition for light, moisture and nutrients posed by pampas grass, native plants and animals will once again be able to thrive on the land.

POST hired Go Native, Inc., in Montara, to install the new trails, continue the habitat restoration, and create two new entrances to the property that respect both the privacy of neighbors and the needs of the landscape. These entrances will include a new ten-car parking and staging area and a pit-toilet restroom along Airport Street at the southeast corner of the property, as well as a new walk-in pedestrian entrance next to the Seal Cove neighborhood at the northern edge of the property.

"Pillar Point Bluff has been well-loved but much-used over the years,"  said Rust. "These improvements will preserve the beauty of the bluff and its views, protect its rich wildlife habitat, and improve the overall health of the land. It will also make recreation easier and safer by placing designated trails and access points back from crumbling cliffs, so we can keep returning to this place and enjoy it long into the future."

Throughout construction, the property will remain open to the public, though portions of some trails may be closed to allow contractors to do their work. The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of October.

Great to see these efforts by POST .
One thing has me worried, as a 50+year user of this entire area above+below the cliffs, we’ve been bicycling up there in the last 15-20 yrs.
Bicycle riders of all ages have used these trails to avoid the high traffic’d roadways, especially on summer wknds.
I hope-expect to see bicycle access respected on this portion of the eventual Coastal Trail.
Anyone know which users exactly who will be assured access on this property?
Jim Sullivan-Linda Mar

It’s wondrous to read about yet another very positive thing POST is doing for the Coastside community. When I look at the sum and total of all of the contributions POST has made to us and to future generations it’s just amazing. Thanks, again, to a dedicated board of directors and their equally dedicated staff.

I also hope/expect that bike access will also be preserved in a manner that works well with the other trail users. I’m also a 50+ rider (with three kids and my wife is an avid equestrian), and I’ve biked there several times over the last 20 years. There are lots of bikers in the coastal region and it would be an asset to maintain the rich biking tradition on the bluffs.

Dave C

I’m not out there as often I as I like, but I biked out there a couple of weeks ago and walked across the bluff. This is an extraordinarily beautiful spot and I’m really grateful that POST is keeping it open and improving it.

Comment 5
Mon, August 25, 2008 8:38pm
Carl May
All my comments

Different from the aggressive bicycle crowd, my worry is that there will not be a path following but set back from the bluff edge that is blessedly unpaved, not so wide that it represents a swath of destruction, and off-limits to bicycles and other mechanical contraptions. Such a path should properly be the Coastal Trail. If a bike or multi-purpose route on the property, and not alongside Airport Road, is an absolute must, it should be separate from the trail for those on foot.

It seems to me something like this scheme was indicated at one of the planning stages, but the worry is a legitimate one because of the pavement/urban-style/big-spending mindset of the Coastal Conservancy when it comes to new segments of the California Coastal Trail. The agency is known to force its way on grantees as the uber-provider of funds. The Coastal Conservancy and many of its supporters and contractors don’t seem to know the difference between a trail and a road.

(Different from the aggressive bicycle crowd),
Good Morning Carl,
Too bad you preface your comment, which is, on the whole, very well presented , with such a negative stereotype of cyclists.
I’ll just say that the coastal trail is a shared use route, the only separation between users I’ve seen is the rental horse folks adjustment.
My experience while using the coastal trail many hundreds of time’s, both walking and pedaling , is one of courtesy amongst users.

Try walking the Pillar Point bluffs trails and see for yourselves what work is being done.

I’m concerned about what is meant by access roads and trails, too. While some work looks like they’re building reasonable trails with decent set-backs from the bluffs, mostly along “volunteer” trails that were there anyway, there’s a road-swath along the eastern/HMB airport side of the bluffs that’s big enough to be a 2-lane road with curbs and sidewalks. Anyone know what the plans are for that?

I’ve never had problems with cyclists on the bluffs. They’ve invariably been courteous. I walk there with my dog once or twice a week (probably someone else will complain about that) and always reel him in when we see or hear cyclists coming, so there’s no conflict.

Comment 8
Tue, August 26, 2008 12:26pm
Carl May
All my comments

What needs to be done to provide space (width) and a hard surface for bicycles spoils trails—especially those in open and natural areas—for people on foot. The urban mindset, stuck in its develop-everything mode, sometimes can’t see this, so disconnected from nature are such people.

There is no statutory requirement, whatsoever, for the state’s California Coastal Trail and the monies made available for this specific project to be multi-use. There are those in the Coastal Conservancy who push the multi-use model, the better to inflate their budgets and importance using a project popular with the public. Building a multi-use road in many places along the coast causes damage to the very coastal features a trail is supposed to access. Oversized access routes also bring more people than some areas can handle.

Finally, money is wasted causing the unnecessary destruction as engineers and landscape architects are paid more money to merely design construction projects than the entire trail should cost to create. This has meant we have gotten relatively little trail length for our money and the California Coastal Trail is taking decades longer than it should to create. The trail gets away from some of the places it is meant to access (sensitively) in order to accommodate bicycles, so people on foot are not only forced onto ugly bicycle roads like the asphalt-topped disaster about to be bulldozed through the middle of Mirada Surf West, they can’t visit the places the CCT was intended to visit.

Thanks to the unavoidable minority of renegade riders, bicycles have been kicked off of some single-track trails in the GGNRA; and on some stretches of the California Coastal Trail designated on existing single-track trails, they have not been allowed to enter. Some bicyclists have also objected to having the CCT route on wide sandy beaches, even though those beaches are by far the best way to go for some stretches of coastline.

There is no getting rid of bicyclists and other mechanical travelers from our public areas, and there are existing roads that provide multi-use routes that can be used with little conflict. Some parts of the California Coastal Trail follow such existing routes, and it would be foolish to establish yet more trails and roads. But on new stretches of the CCT, the resource should be respected. This extends to keeping even a single-track footpath out of some places that would be negatively impacted. The Pillar Point bluffs are not exactly pristine nature, but the restoration efforts under way for the vegetation are serious and the open space is one that should allow separate facilities for people on foot and bicycles.

The annual state trails conference is quite an eye-opener for some who go to it believing we can “all just get along.” The motorized contraption users are there—dirt bikes, ATV’s, you name it—are there to lobby for their “rights.” They are simply another degree of artificial travel beyond bicycles and could care less if they have to destroy it in order to access it. California is grossly overpopulated, so everyone is pushed into everyone else’s face. Visits to undeveloped outdoor areas can provide valuable respite from that, but not if everyone is forced onto multi-user roads.

The Coastal Trail is multi use, every inch of it.
If one desires a walking only area to recreate, one needs only to walk to any SM Co park, where bicycles, dogs are currently forbidden from accessing trails.
State Parks also have many existing walking only trails.

Comment 10
Tue, August 26, 2008 2:41pm
Carl May
All my comments


I’m guessing you do not know about the specific state project known as the California Coastal Trail (CCT) and are somehow extrapolating from HMB’s misplaced paved road called the Coastal Trail. The Pillar Point bluffs are not in HMB.

Through the Coastal Conservancy, funds are made available for many local stretches of the CCT. The recipients of these funds range from local governments to nonprofit organizations working in concert with local governments. Other funds are often added from other sources, locally and regionally. For example, the “Coastal Trail” (actually road, as it can be and is driven on with park vehicles) in HMB was built by the city’s Parks and Rec department while the trails on the Pillar Point bluff are being developed by POST.

Yes, HMB’s “trail” is multi-use, but that is a feature of HMB’s stretch of trail and is not, nowhere, nohow, mandated for the CCT elsewhere. In fact, new stretches of CCT in HMB do not necessarily have to be multi-use, but, realistically, one cannot conceive of anything else being built in that pavement-addicted, money-slathering outpost of suburbia.

Where new stretches of the CCT are being created elsewhere, the design of the trail should be appropriate according to what the trail is supposed to be—which is lateral access to the California coastline.

So, back to the points made in my previous message. HMB and other places that have built destructive, misplaced portions of the CCT do not dictate conditions for the rest of the universe. Thank goodness.

I frequent the Pillar Point bluff area both on bicycle and on foot and in its current configuration, both experiences are very pleasant.  My concern is the new plan will entice more people into this area and whether on foot or bicycle will degrade the experience of the visitors there.  Presently, even on weekends the number of visitors in not overwhelming and there is always the opportunity to find a place of solace to quietly enjoy. I find walkers, bicyclist and dog walkers mingle very well with minimum of interference with each other. This is because the numbers are reasonable. To me a significant increase in visitors poses the greatest threat to the enjoyment of the bluff area.

I understand there is a 10 car dirt parking lot being built on the west side of Airport St. just north of the mobile home park, with a dirt trail for easier access to the bluff area.

Comment 12
Wed, August 27, 2008 7:14pm
Carl May
All my comments

“I understand there is a 10 car dirt parking lot being built on the west side of Airport St. just north of the mobile home park, with a dirt trail for easier access to the bluff area.”

There is an upside to such unneeded developments like this and the toilet, bridge, and road on Mirada Surf West. They tell you the sources of funds have plenty to burn and you do not need to vote for more when bond issues are on the ballot.