Feet may soon tread on La Honda’s paths

Douglas firs, redwood trees, steelhead, salmon and the endangered California red-legged frog have all made themselves at home in the La Honda Creek Open Space Preserve. But, if all goes according to plan, respectful hikers may also be allowed a visit.

The Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space District, which owns the 2,100-plus-acre preserve, will be unveiling a draft of a comprehensive plan tuesday that analyzes how certain areas could potentially be opened up to hikers while protecting the land and its inhabitants.

The site is located near Skyline Boulevard and Highway 84 and, despite its size, only allows hikers and horseback riders on a 3.7-mile trail along its northernmost parcel.

“If you don’t have a plan, you end up with a lot of isolated issues and problems that could adversely affect the whole preserve,” district spokesman Rudy Jurgensen said.

While part of the extensive plan is also to open up the land to more low-intensity recreation, such as hiking and horseback riding, the plan also seeks to eventually restore a coho salmon habitat that has no longer flourished due to continued sediment flows into the creek.

Controlling the water quality, district officials said, is vital to the survival of certain species of fish, such as the steelhead.

But limiting the sediment flow could prove challenging. La Honda is no stranger to landslides. Homes in and around the Skyline Boulevard and state Route 84 area have historically been red-tagged — a government order to vacate a property in peril — due to earth movement. A so-called “prehistoric landslide,” in fact, continues moving slowly near La Honda to other spots along state Routes 84 and 92, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

La Honda Creek itself is continually filled with sediment, especially during rains as land starts moving around, as it is wont to do in this area.

Opening up the antique red barn in the former McDonald Ranch and some of Driscoll Ranch area to hikers, nature groups and the like, is also part of the proposal, according to the draft plan.

Cost estimates for the projects have not yet been crunched, but the district would fund all the studies and improvements with the help of any grant funding that might be available at the time, Jurgensen said. The district hopes to at least have the plan adopted by late spring 2008, according to the expected timeline.

tramroop@examiner.com

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