Stanford proposes new design of ‘perimeter trail’

Sept. 30, 2013, 1:04 a.m.

The University recently announced a finalized design of a new proposed perimeter trail, after San Mateo County rejected Stanford’s proposal to fix the Lower Alpine Trail in December 2011.

The new circular trail will connect several roads, including Junipero Serra Boulevard, Stanford Avenue and Quarry Road.

According to James Sweeney Ph.D. ’71, professor of management science and engineering and president of the Stanford Campus Residential Leaseholders (SCRL), this “well-designed system of trails” provides “superb connectivity.” It allows walkers, joggers and cyclists to travel from the Baylands Nature Reserve all the way up to the Arastradero Preserve in the foothills.

While the increased connectivity brought about by the perimeter trail has generally been well received, the impact of the trail on the parking situation near The Dish is clouded in controversy.

By preventing cars from parking down one side of Stanford Avenue, the trail will cut the available parking spots down from 60 to 27. However, 33 compensatory spaces will be made available on Coyote Hill Road.

Many people from outer regions such as Los Altos and Palo Alto lament the loss of parking and the extra half-mile they have to walk to and from the Dish.

“[People] don’t want to walk to their walk—they want to drive to their walk,” Sweeney said.

Stanford residents, for their part, tend to be more open to the change in parking situation, as it alleviates the previous chaotic situation with cars parked on both sides of the road, which Sweeney described as “an accident waiting to happen.”

Sweeney’s wish that residents, including students, participate in Stanford’s decision-making process regarding its final trail design came true.

“There were hundreds and hundreds of emails to the Santa Clara county board of supervisors, including many from students who expressed their views,” Sweeney said. “Many people came to communicate at public hearings. It became a very good, open process.”

Paul Utz M.D. ’91, a professor in the School of Medicine and leader of the Committee to Fix Lower Alpine Trail, echoed Sweeney’s enthusiasm for the project, qualifying it as “fabulous.”

However, the sense of disappointment he feels about the abandonment of the original Lower Alpine trail project—which can, according to Sweeney, be attributed to strong objections advanced by the Alpine residents to a trail going through their neighborhood—still hasn’t faded.

“It’s a shame we couldn’t use Stanford’s money [to fix the trail],” he said.

In December 2011, Stanford proposed to spend $10 million to repair the Lower Alpine Trail. Stanford and Santa Clara County agreed to a contract seven years ago requiring the University to pay the $10 million to Santa Clara County–money that would solely be used for recreational purposes for Stanford campus residents and facility users—if San Mateo County chose not to use the fund to revamp its trail.

Although the San Mateo County has now budgeted over two million dollars to fix the trail from Portola Valley to Piers Lane, Utz pointed out that no action is being taken to address the problem of congestion on Alpine Road.

Had Stanford’s project been approved, a frontage road and a much wider trail, separated by a fencing, would have seen built.

“[The proposed change is] better than the current situation, which is extremely dangerous, but it’s far from ideal,” Utz said.

Contact Nikhita Obeegadoo at [email protected].

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