New trail planned
This slide shows a southern overlook planned for the Devil's Slide trail. Courtesy: San Mateo County  Parks and Recreation Department.

Coastsiders got their first virtual look at what could become the crown jewel in the San Mateo County Parks system when staff presented plans for the finished trail along Devil’s Slide.

The plans were unveiled Thursday during a meeting at Cypress Meadows in Moss Beach. San Mateo County Parks Superintendent Gary Lockman characterized the plans as “20 to 30 percent complete,” but it was clear that a great deal of thought has already gone into the trail. Engineers presented detailed drawings of elevations and composite photos of what a finished trail would look like. The county is accepting public comment via email at through Aug. 8.

Plans call for 38 parking spots split between lots on either end of the 1.3-mile trail. The existing roadway would be smoothed in spots and covered with a new surface. The 24 feet of pavement would be divided with 12 feet dedicated for bicyclists in lanes hugging Montara Mountain and the 12 feet closest to the edge set aside for hikers.

There would be 10 interpretive signs along the length of the trail. Plans call for two overlooks and an interpretive center near the middle of the trail.

“We’ve been working on this since I was sheriff,” said Supervisor Don Horsley in opening remarks on Thursday. “We think this will connect the entire Coastside in a unique way.”

Construction on the trail is governed by a Coastal Development Permit that requires a number of environmental protections. The most controversial of those requirements appears to be a six-foot chain link fence that would obscure the view for a portion of the southern end of the trail. Wildlife experts say that is necessary to protect birds that nest in spring and summer months.

For much of the trail, the only barrier to the view will be the existing traffic barricades – known as K rails – and they may be painted tan to better blend with the environment.

The county also plans restrooms and drinking fountains at either end of the trail and benches placed strategically throughout.

The current budget calls for spending $1.2 million on construction and consultants leading to the trail’s opening. The county plans to hire two rangers to staff the trail and will spend money annually on upkeep.

County staffers say they have no plan or budget to replace the work in the event of the kind of road-bed failure for which the stretch is famous. If a slide one day makes the road impassible, county staff could elect to simply block access from the north and south and make the trail a dead end from either direction.

The county plans to take possession of the old roadway from Caltrans no later than October and to have the trail open in March 2014. The Coastal Development Permit requires the county to open the trail within one year of the tunnel’s April opening.

The next public discussion of the trail will come at the county Parks and Recreation Commission meeting scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 1, at 400 County Center, Redwood City. Lockman said the county may host another public meeting at Cypress Meadows in August. The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors is due to consider the plan on Sept. 17.

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