Tue11252014

News

Open Space District approves vision plan, considers bond measure


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District selected Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve as one of 25 priority projects in its long-term vision plan.

Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District officials propose improvements to Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve in their long-term vision plan.

At the conclusion of a nearly 10-month vision planning process, the district prioritized projects for the next 40 years based on scientific analysis and public input gathered via five public meetings and its online website.

The district narrowed the list of 73 potential projects into 25 priority projects for implementation in the “nearer-term,” defined by officials as the next 20 years or sooner. Projects range from campground and trail improvements to habitat conservation and watershed protection.

To qualify for inclusion on the tier-one priority list, a project needed public support at meetings and online, a high rating from members of the Community Advisory Committee and relevance to the goals of the vision plan.

After a final review last week, board members approved 23 tier-one projects in addition to two others that merited inclusion because of public interest and the large number of visitors that use the open spaces.

Improvements to Rancho San Antonio, the district’s most active preserve with nearly 13,000 visitors per day, made the priority project list. Enhancements at the preserve may include adding a visitors’ center, upgrading Deer Hollow Farm, extending bike trails, installing a bike-share station and coordinating bus service to reduce parking demands.

“We did a lot of upfront planning as to be as inclusive and open as possible,” said Curt Riffle, a Los Altos resident who represents Ward 4 on the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District board.

According to district officials, approximately 5 percent of all meeting participants and 10 percent of all online participants reside in Los Altos.

Riffle said local residents should be “pretty darn happy with what we’ve done.” In the 41 years since voters created the district to preserve open space, the district has acquired 62,000 acres of land. With less than 50 percent of district land currently open to the public, Riffle said the vision plan would make more open space accessible.

Now that the vision plan is approved, the board will evaluate costs for priority projects and examine supplemental funding options, such as a bond. According to a district estimate, the top 25 projects on the priority list could cost approximately $300 million.

“We think the public might be willing to pay a little more,” said Riffle of a bond measure that would generate funds to expedite the projects.

Board members will decide at their Feb. 26 meeting whether to place a General Obligation Bond on the June 2014 ballot.

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