The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors officially rejected Stanford’s offer of $10.4 million toward restoration of the Alpine Road Trail on Dec. 13 with a 3-2 vote. The offer expired on Dec. 31.
The debate over the trail’s construction and the restoration of the existing trail stretching from Highway 280 to Junipero Serra lasted for a decade. The county had previously rejected Stanford’s proposal in 2008 and 2010 but considered it again on the University’s request.
As per a prior agreement, Stanford will now set up a fund for Santa Clara County to provide recreational opportunities for campus residents and authorized users of Stanford facilities.
Larry Horton, Stanford senior associate vice president and director of government and community relations, said that for now, Stanford students and local residents would have to continue to use the existing trail.
P.J. Utz, professor in the School of Medicine, said that the issue of the existing trail is still relevant.
“It ends for Stanford in many ways, but it doesn’t end for those of us who live in the area that’s affected, and we’re not about to let it end at this point,” he said.
San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine, who voted to accept Stanford’s offer, said the board is aware of the dangerous conditions of the existing trail. The stretch is adjacent to a road used by an average of 25,000 cars a day driving at fast speeds and has seen a cyclist’s death at the Highway 280 interchange.
“The specific vote was as to whether we should continue to study the matter and again, because of the serious problems in the quarter, because of the county’s budget shortfalls, I felt that we should continue those studies,” Pine said.
One of the concerns that led to the rejection focused on whether a trail could be built in the designated quarter of the county. Residents of nearby Stanford Weekend Acres have advocated positioning the trail well away from the neighborhood so as to avoid traffic congestion in their area.
At the board meeting where the vote took place, six options for use of the funds offered by Stanford were examined.
One option suggested building the trail as a connection to Pier’s Lane from Junipero Serra, thereby completely avoiding Stanford Weekend Acres. However, according to the agreement between Stanford and Santa Clara County, Stanford land would not be used for the Alpine Road Trail as Stanford had already built trails in its area using Santa Clara funds.
Another option included crossing Alpine Road heading north towards Pier’s Lane or a modestly sized trail along the Stanford Weekend Acres corner. Pine even suggested a moderate pedestrian-use-only 4-foot trail along Stanford Weekend Acres in order to appease those with concerns.
In the end, Pine said he believes that the history behind the debate affected the majority’s decision, as the three supervisors who voted to reject the offer had rejected it once, if not twice before. He also said the county will continue to look into improving dangerous conditions on the trail.
“I do think that the process has certainly shed a light on the urgency of updating the quarter, and I’m sure if the county works on its budget coming into the next year and looks at its capital budget, we’ll be working on what we can find funds for,” Pine said.
In the meantime, Utz and about 20 other residents involved in the Committee to Fix Lower Alpine Trail will begin lobbying supervisors to obtain the needed funds to repair the existing trail.
“I think in the end, they did something that was fiscally irresponsible; and I think that now they’re stuck with a trail that has to be fixed, and they’re stuck with a creek that’s eroding into a road that’s going to cost millions of dollars to fix. I think that that reality is going to hit home very soon,” Utz said.