image-johnston house
Planners hope to weave a new trail through property at the Johnston House in Half Moon Bay. Kyle Ludowitz / Review

As a way to create safer, easier access on trails around the Johnston House property, the Half Moon Bay City Council is interested in exchanging land with multiple agencies. This is part of a larger concerted effort to form a trail system that extends from the Coastside to the bay.  

“It’s a triple win,” said City Manager Bob Nisbet. “It serves everyone.” 

At the Oct. 1 council meeting the city signed two non-binding letters of intent with Peninsula Open Space Trust and Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. 

The first agreement involves the city receiving a 30-foot-wide easement along the south side of Higgins Canyon Road between Main Street and the Johnston House parking lot.

Nisbet acknowledged walkers and bicyclists use the road, though it is not a formal trail. 

“It’s quite rural, but people do use it,” he said. “So the idea is, adjacent to the road, build a decomposed granite path that would provide a safer way to connect the park to the street.” 

In exchange, the city would grant an easement to POST and MROSD along the western boundary of the Johnston House property. This will create access for the farmers who use POST’s property and it will allow for emergency and maintenance access for the open space district for a proposed multi-use nature trail.  “The idea is there would be a trail to connect the sea to the bay,” Nisbet said. “It’s a vision that Midpeninsula has, and all the agencies are involved because they have a stake in some part of the trail.” 

The nature trail would be constructed on 440 acres of property owned by the open space district, which is located east of the Johnston House. To construct it, the council is entering into an agreement with 10 agencies, including San Mateo County, California State Coastal Conservancy, Coastside Land Trust and California State Parks among others. The agencies would be responsible for constructing the portion of the trail on their property. Once complete, the trail would have two possible routes, one through the Johnston House property and the other along the Higgins Canyon Road easement. 

Once the trail is complete, the plan is to share the parking lot at the Johnston House among agencies. 

“We said, eventually, when you put the trail in, it might increase use of the parking lot and we may need to expand it,” Nisbet said. “So Midpeninsula said they would contribute to any improvements in the future.”  

City Councilwoman Debbie Ruddock praised the proposals, also noting that it could take several years to see the trail to completion.  

“I think it is a great long-term vision … for recreation, outdoor health, cycling, walking and hiking and that is a good piece of our economy,” she said. “It’s a vision plan. We do not know when it will be built, but it is a vision and that’s what gets people excited.”

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