The storm is passing.
The last year and a half has been rough sailing in so many ways. One refuge we, and our neighbors from over the hill, could all enjoy was our coastal town with its astonishing natural resources. Our beaches, trails and parks were actively used throughout and at times overwhelmed. Now, with inoculation rates in San Mateo County approaching 80 percent and mask rules lifting, we have arrived at the new normal.
So where do we go from here?
The Half Moon Bay Land Use Plan, which will be certified in a few short days, lays out policies for creating and upgrading new parks, trails and infrastructure to make our community more sustainable, vibrant and livable. Your City Council and staff are hard at work setting budgets and making priorities so we can get real stuff done. Here are some things you should ask your City Council to lean into.
First and foremost, we need to prioritize the completion and upgrade of the California Coastal Trail in town. Access to the trail is good for our bodies and our collective mental health, and it is one of the most accessible types of recreation. Growing up in a Latino family, I can tell you that my cousins and tías don’t hike, but they do walk. My cousins and septuagenarian parents love the Coastal Trail. I don’t see much diversity hiking up Purisima to Skyline, but everybody walks on parts of the Coastal Trail — and it’s free.
Unfortunately, the trail is inaccessible to many because it is still ungraded or washed away in places. Casual use of informal trails and the steady work of the elements have eroded the bluff tops, damaged sensitive habitat, and made access to the beach dangerous. That’s why we need to complete the southern leg from Redondo Beach Road to Poplar Beach. The second phase of the Wavecrest Trail Project is shovel-ready. It will put in dozens of free parking units, new steps to the beach, much-needed bathrooms and other low-impact amenities for visitors so they don’t despoil our lands. Private donors, Ocean Colony Partners, and Coastside Land Trust have committed millions of dollars to this endeavor, but the city (and your City Council) needs to make this a priority with financial and administrative support.
Second, the city does not provide enough park space to meet our community needs. Not a single volleyball court, soccer field, basketball hoop or community garden. Even the soccer fields, tennis courts, modest swimming pool and 18,000-square-foot “community center” owned by the school district have been difficult to access by the public at large.
During COVID-19, citizens have taken matters into their own hands as witnessed by the pirate gardens on Magnolia, the pump track on Seymour, or the tree forts, basketball hoops and rope swings that dot the streetscape, open space and vacant lots. The community has stepped up, but the city has an obligation to do more.
Under our new Land Use Plan, we have a long-term deficit of 10 acres of park space that we need to fill. We can finish the work at Frenchmans Creek Park. We should break ground on Seymour Park (which has been sitting idle for 20 years) in a manner that respects the existing work that neighborhood kids and parents have lovingly started. A proper beach volleyball court could be put just about anywhere, providing low-cost, multigenerational recreation, and cost less than a fully loaded maintenance truck. This is easy stuff and long overdue.
Finally, we need to make better use of the park resources we already have. The city needs to revisit its joint operating relationship with the Cabrillo School District so we can access these community resources, which have been paid for with our tax dollars and the generosity of individual donors. We need to take a long, hard look at the Johnston House property that sits idle and unused for more than 350 days of the year. The city could take the pragmatic first steps to make the dank and depressing Carter Park more usable by the public at large and chase away illicit behavior.
These are practical things that we can afford if they are prioritized. So, let your City Council know that you care about these things now, so that we are in better shape when the next storm hits.
Rick Hernandez is a member of the Half Moon Bay Planning Commission.