Loma Mar logging plans could be cut

Pressure from environmentalists may be turning the tide on plans to log about 500 acres of property owned by the San Francisco YMCA and the county Board of Education near Loma Mar.

The YMCA, which has applied for a timber-harvesting permit from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection for about 300 acres off of Pescadero Road, may alter the language of its application to stop logging if it receives a foundation grant to make up for the projected loss in timber sales if the plan is dropped.

The move comes after months of meeting with environmentalists and local residents, but hinges on whether the YMCA can secure the grant that it needs for maintenance to its Jones Gulch Grove camp facilities, said Bill Worthington, vice president of properties for YMCA. Worthington wouldn’t say what foundation is in consideration to contribute a grant.

Numerous county residents showed up at a public meeting with the YMCA, local environmentalists and the county Parks Department in December to protest YMCA’s plan to harvest up to 40 percent of the property’s trees 18 inches in diameter and larger, said Lennie Roberts, spokeswoman for the Palo Alto-based Committee for Green Foothills, which along with the Sierra Club has been meeting with the YMCA.

In addition to concern for a 40-acre old-growth stand on the property, a threatened species of reclusive seafaring birds, the Marbled Murrelets, are believed to nest in the forest,Roberts said.

Of equal weight are logging considerations being batted about by the San Mateo County Board of Education for about 200 acres of land five miles from the YMCA forest, Roberts said.

“I just think that a commitment for commercial harvesting by a public agency [the Board of Education] and a nonprofit [the YMCA] isn’t compatible with their missions,” Roberts said.

The YMCA began considering logging, which has occurred on the property in the past, as a revenue source for its 15-year, $15 million plan, finalized a year ago, to upgrade facilities at Jones Gulch Grove.

About 17,000 people attend various outdoor education camps at the site each year, Worthington said.

The county Board of Education hasn’t yet made a decision or submitted an application to log the property.

That decision won’t come until this summer, said Peter Burchyns, special adviser to the county superintendent of schools.

The school board bought the land using voter-approved bond funds in the 1970s with the idea of turning the land into an outdoor education facility. But the district has instead rented Jones Gulch to avoid the expense of developing its own facility.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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