Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Parks should belong to the people

We took a day off on Monday and went hiking. We didn't go to the trails shown on this video because, for no plausible reason they've ever offered, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission bars recreational use of its Peninsula watershed. On the San Mateo County side to the east, along the Sawyer Camp Trail, you can amble beside the Crystal Springs Reservoir for miles. But not on San Francisco's property to the west.

I actually have joined one of the limited outings the PUC permits to authorized groups. Our entrance was monitored by a ranger; another drove the back roads to check on us twice over the eleven mile hike. It felt very police-statish -- what are they hiding up there?

Brian Coyne told the history.

... until the PUC bought the land in the 1930s from the private Spring Valley Water Company and closed the land to the public, the roads through it were among the most popular scenic routes—for motorists, bicyclists, and hikers—in the whole Bay Area. A popular guidebook of the era recommends routes that start in Millbrae, wind along the shores of the reservoirs, and connect eventually to what’s now Highway 92 leading to Half Moon Bay.

Tom Stienstra, longtime outdoor guru for the Chronicle, calls the PUC's excuses for not opening the area "just a bunch of puckey."

Open the SF Watershed has been pushing the PUC to change its policies. Politicians in both San Francisco and San Mateo are taking up the cause. Just last week, the agency indicated openness to allowing more access to the Fifield-Cahill road along the ridge. Let's hope they follow through with this. In San Francisco, Supervisor John Avalos is on the case. In San Mateo County, it's been Dave Pine and Dan Horsley.

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