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Pacifica buys last piece of Coastal Trail

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After several years of negotiations and false starts, Pacifica is finally poised to move forward with a land purchase that would close the last major gap in the town’s piece of the California Coastal Trail.

The California Coastal Trail is a statewide project aiming to link coastal hiking and biking trails from California’s northern border to its southern border. When complete, the 1,200 miles of contiguous trails could theoretically enable determined outdoors enthusiasts to hike all the way from the Oregon border to the border with Mexico, without ever straying far from the Pacific Ocean.

Pacifica has been close to providing contiguous trails between its northern and southern borders, but one piece of the puzzle that’s been
missing has been a connection between the city’s southernmost neighborhood and its neighbor to the south, the unincorporated town of Montara.

The neighborhood in question, Pedro Point, is home to land owner David Colt. City officials have hoped for several years to build a hiking trail through his property to connect to the new trail at Devil’s Slide, which is on the way to Montara.

Colt indicated a willingness to divide his property and sell a five-acre parcel that would enable the city to move forward with the project, but hammering out the details proved to be a long, slow process.

Along with Mayor Karen Irvin, then-Councilman Len Stone was instrumental in reaching an agreement with Colt.

Negotiations between the city and Colt had previously gone on for two years before falling apart, Stone said, and that stall prompted him to seek the City Council’s approval to act as lead negotiator in the process.

A Realtor by trade, Stone said his expertise in that area motivated him to want to help the parties come to an agreement.

“Basically, we started over from scratch and got it done in less than a year,” Stone said.

The deal was a complicated one, Stone noted, partly because the city had almost no money to offer upfront, and would rely on various funding sources to pay for the parcel.

According to the Pacifica Tribune, the purchase price for the land was $583,000. More than half of that will be covered by a grant from the California Department of Parks and Recreation, which requires 100 percent matching local funds. San Mateo County and the San Mateo County Transportation Authority have committed to providing the necessary matching funds.

The current City Council’s recent unanimous decision to move forward with the purchase represents a victory for the former councilman, who noted practical safety concerns for hikers and bicyclists were among his chief motivators.

The Devil’s Slide trail, Montara, and the rest of the coastside are currently inaccessible to Pacifica hikers and bicyclists, Stone explained, unless they’re willing to hike or bike up a section of Highway 1 that lacks a bike lane or adequate shoulder.

Resident Jim Sullivan, who serves on the Pacifica Open Space and Parklands Committee and runs the “Pacifica Trails” Facebook group, shares those safety concerns, noting the only way to currently reach the Devil’s Slide trail is to drive or take a free shuttle bus that only runs on weekends.
“This is going to provide a remarkably important connection to Devil’s Slide,” Sullivan noted.

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