Release Submitted by Midpeninsula Regional Open Space:
High above the Santa Clara Valley this week, the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District’s Board of Directors, Amah Mutsun Tribal Chairman Valentin Lopez and conservation organizations broke ground on the Bald Mountain Parking Area, located 1.7 miles up Mount Umunhum Road in the Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve.
They were joined by Representatives Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19) and Mike Honda (CA-17), celebrating the April 23 groundbreaking as an important milestone toward opening Mount Umunhum to the public in 2017.
“By 2040, the valley’s population is expected to have grown by a third, making our precious public open spaces increasingly scarce,” said Eshoo, a Midpen supporter.
“Open acreage once undeveloped is now home to advanced manufacturers, innovative software companies and clean energy startups. This growth has been immensely valuable to our economy and job creation, but it has not come without challenges for maintaining open spaces and a healthy environment,"she said.
"The Bald Mountain groundbreaking is a historic step toward opening one of the Bay Area’s monumental peaks to the public, who need places and ways to connect with nature more than ever.”
At 3,486 feet, Mount Umunhum is one of the tallest peaks in the Bay Area which, when open, will offer world-class views and hiking, biking and horseback riding opportunities to the public.
Congresswoman Lofgren, whose involvement in the restoration effort dates to her time on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, said, "We know that there is a key link between people’s access to parks and open spaces and their well-being, and this facility will provide a starting point for families to come and recreate.
"Today's groundbreaking is a large milestone in a terrific effort begun in 1986 to reclaim Mount Umunhum as a nature preserve and an open space for future generations to enjoy this treasure."
In 1986, Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (Midpen) purchased the former Almaden Air Force Base at the summit, for the then-market price of $260,000 and added it to its Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve. The site was left with 90 buildings that needed remediation for lead, asbestos and black mold.
Congressman Honda worked on the reclamation and clean-up of Mount Umunhum for over a decade. As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, he helped secure funds to clean up the toxic materials from the former Air Force base.
In 2011, through his advocacy and with significant support from Representative Lofgren and Senators Boxer and Feinstein, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began work on the remediation of the site. The remediation and demolition took two years and concluded in early 2014.
“It’s been a long journey to open this mountain,” said Honda, “but protecting our open spaces and sacred wilderness is more than sound public policy, it’s our profound duty. We must protect our environment and national treasures to ensure a safe, sustainable, and healthy way of life for all. ”
Of the $700,000 in project costs for the parking area, $430,000 will be funded by the California Coastal Conservancy, which has granted a total of $1 million both directly and through the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council for the Mount Umunhum Summit Project, which will include a new spur to the Bay Area Ridge Trail to the top, restrooms, and other multi-use trails.
Umun is the Ohlone word for hummingbird, an important figure in the Ohlone creation story, and the mountain is of deep cultural significance to the land’s first caretakers who will be able to use the summit for prayer, celebration and reflection.
The summit of Mount Umunhum is scheduled to open to the public in 2017.
Midpen has placed Measure AA on the June 3 ballot in Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties to support 25 major regional open space projects, four of which are in the Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve on and near Mount Umunhum.