An effort to preserve Tunitas Creek Beach and give the public access to the 58-acre property south of Half Moon Bay took a major step Tuesday when San Mateo County officials voted to purchase the property from the Peninsula Open Space Trust for $3.2 million.
Supported by a $3.2 million grant from the California State Coastal Conservancy, the county’s acquisition of the coastal land it has managed since 2017 is one of several steps officials and partner agencies have taken to maintain the property’s natural resources and make it accessible to visitors as a new San Mateo County park.
Home to a freshwater marsh and species such as the San Francisco garter snake and the western snowy plover, the property’s natural beauty has previously suffered due to poor management, camping and bonfires, explained Deputy Parks Director Nicholas Calderon. The property is difficult to access from either a treacherous steep bluff or a winding path along the sensitive creek and has been an attraction for illicit raves and overnight campers.
For Supervisor Don Horsley, whose District 3 includes the property, the opportunity to count one of the most scenic stretches of San Mateo County coastline among the county parks was a point of pride as well as an effort he recognized required the support of state legislators as well as several agencies, organizations and community groups.
“It’s something I’m really proud of,” he said, according to a video of the meeting. “It is really a phenomenal and exciting addition to our park system.”
Calderon explained the Peninsula Open Space Trust, or POST, acquired the property from private ownership in 2017 and the San Mateo County Parks Department has managed the property since then, working with state officials to cite visitors for poaching violations and also to scope improvements such as an emergency access road to the beach. He acknowledged the efforts of state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, and Assemblyman Marc Berman, D-Palo Alto, in securing $5 million toward the effort last year.
Among the conditions of the $3.2 million awarded by the California State Coastal Conservancy are requirements the county post signs stating the agency supported the purchase, prepare a report documenting the land’s physical and environmental conditions and inspect and document the property’s condition every five years, noted Calderon.
He added the county has also been asked to manage POST’s Cowell-Purisima Coastal Trail, a 3.5-mile trial just south of Half Moon Bay currently only open on weekends and holidays.
Calderon also noted officials would have to monitor and plan around some of the challenges associated with the property, which include active and inactive landslides and a need to remove a single-family dwelling damaged by fire and vandalism. He said county officials are also working with POST to determine whether water can be provided on site or if they need to devise a strategy to bring water to the property.
Daniel Olstein, POST’s director of land programs and stewardship, expressed his appreciation to county officials for supporting the efforts to stop damaging activities and restore the property. He said he looked forward to seeing the park become available to the public.
“It’s been amazing to see the enthusiasm of our donors as well as the citizens and community members,” he said.
Calderon expected supervisors to consider in the next few weeks a consultant agreement with a firm expected to scope the site plans and permits required to design the land into a county park.
Horsley reflected on how far the property has come since officials received reports of crowded party scenes and challenges faced by emergency response crews assisting those with injuries on the beach. He credited the Parks Department, the California State Coastal Conservancy, POST, community groups dedicated to picking up trash at the beach as well as Hill, Mullin and Berman for getting the damaging activity under control and making a new park there possible.
“To get down there was almost impossible,” he said. “It really is a very scenic, wonderful marvelous place.”
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