Tree Clearing
Crews have cleared the undergrowth along a trail through Rancho Corral de Tierra. August Howell / Review

Coastsiders hiking through Rancho Corral de Tierra may notice how wide portions of the trails became last month.

The changes to the trails began in late September when the National Park Service began its annual “wildland fuel reduction project” at Rancho Corral de Tierra, the 4,000 acres of federally protected parkland that sprawls in between Montara to El Granada. While the fire prevention maintenance itself was not unusual for the National

Park Service, this year the work seemed more urgent given 66666the fires that burned throughout California in recent months.

From Sept. 21 through the end of October, fire crews and contractors used a combination of saws and other machines to clear away nonnative pine, eucalyptus and cypress trees from portions of trails in the park. Cotoneasters and broom growing at the park’s perimeter and next to households were also removed.

“The safety of our public lands and adjoining communities is a top priority,” Laura Joss, general superintendent of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, said in a September press release. “Reducing fuel loads and removing nonnative tree species will improve the health of the park’s southern lands and decrease the risk of a catastrophic wildfire."

According to park officials, thinning tree patches and removing dense vegetation is an important step in preventing wildfires from spreading. In August, the CZU Lightning Complex fires, which burned across 86,000 acres and destroyed more than 1,000 buildings in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties, were fueled, in part, by dense underbrush that kindled the growing fires.

This is the second year the park has used “dedicated regional wildland fire fuel funds” for this park, said Public Affairs Specialist Julian Espinoza. The crew followed a similar fuel reduction format that was done on a smaller scale in 2018.

“This work will also slow the spread of nonnative, invasive trees into ecologically important prairie and marsh habitats,” Espinoza wrote in an email.

Even before the area’s management was transferred from the Peninsula Open Space Trust to the GGNRA in 2011, the park’s trails were a popular destination for many local hikers, dog walkers, horseback riders and mountain bikers, and remain so to this day. It also contains the headwaters of four nearby watersheds, Martini, Montara, San Vicente and Denniston creeks.

Not all trees the crews worked on were felled completely. Some had lower limbs and branches removed to prevent flames from traveling upward into the canopy, which makes the hazard harder to contain. The resulting woodchips were spread throughout the nearby dirt trails. While reducing the risk of spreading fires, clearing area near multi-use trails also provides better access for firefighters should an emergency occur in the park.

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