San Mateo County buys Pillar Point Bluffs with grants

Pillar Point Bluffs, a 140-acre preserve north of Half Moon Bay overlooking Mavericks surf break, will soon belong to San Mateo County.

The County’s Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the transfer of $3 million to the Peninsula Open Space Trust on Tuesday for the purchase of the wind-whipped lookout.

The purchase comes at a time when the county’s $82 million budget deficit has led officials to consider the closure of the much-loved Flood Park in Menlo Park, which gets 75,000 visitors a year, according to the Parks Department.

However, because the purchase is paid for with grants from California’s Wildlife Conservation Board, the Bluffs will not cost the cash-strapped county any money.

“Given that the purchase will be funded through grant funds and is conditional upon receiving those funds, it will have no fiscal impact,” Steve Alms, manager of the Real Property Services Division told supervisors Tuesday. On June 2, the Wildlife Conservation Board is expected to approve the grants to the county.

Maintenance of the bluffs will also not incur new expense for the county, as the Parks Department has handled upkeep for the past three years.

“We’re already maintaining it so we’re not incurring any additional cost,” said Supervisor Don Horsley, whose Third District encompasses the Bluffs. Horsley described the cost of maintaining the park, which does not have a ranger, as “minimal.”

The Peninsula Open Space Trust — in conjunction with the California Coastal Conservancy — began buying up the three parcels that make up Pillar Point Bluffs in August 2004 with the aim of protecting the area from commercial development and realizing the dream of a 1,200-mile continuous California Coastal Trail. Over the past three years, POST has resurfaced trails, conducted restoration efforts such as removing invasive pampas grass, and built a small parking lot.

With the county’s takeover, no immediate changes are expected to come to the park, which will be bought “as is,” according to Alms.

Cid Young, who lives in the Seal Cove residential area adjacent to the Bluffs, said she is happy the county is purchasing the property. Her main concern, she said, is that the trails within the park be better marked to ensure the safety of hikers.

“[The bluffs] have great resources and marvelous views,”  said Lennie Roberts, a full-time volunteer for the Committee for Green Foothills, a nonprofit that works to preserve the Peninsula’s open spaces. “It’s a great piece of property to be protecting permanently.”



Pillar Point Bluffs

Features: 170 foot cliffs, 140 acres, views of Mavericks surf spot, reefs and tide pools
Fauna: Seals, pelicans, cormorants, seagulls, hawks, garter snakes and California red-legged frogs.
Flora: Home to 109 plants, 64 of which are native species, including coyote brush, coastal scrub and many types of wildflowers.
Location: Near Moss Beach off Highway 1
Hours: Sunrise to sunset
Fees: None
Trail: Easy to moderate hiking on 2 miles of paths
Source: Peninsula Open Space Trust

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