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University to develop conservation plan for Dish area


The Stanford foothills area known as "the Dish" will become a special area for habitat conservation as well as for continued academic use, President Gerhard Casper announced on Tuesday.

Recreational use still will be permitted between dawn and a half hour before sunset, but limited to jogging or hiking on approved service roads. No dogs or social events, such as picnics, will be permitted. The university also will explore an agreement with federal, state and local agencies to assist the survival of several threatened animal species and will implement an environmental restoration program under the direction of the Stanford Center for Conservation Biology, Casper said.

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Casper said he has asked staff to fully implement the plan by Sept. 1. The Dish area may need to be closed for two to four weeks this summer, he said, for road repairs and other work. The Dish refers to the radio telescope that is the most prominent landmark in the area. It is used for academic purposes, and new academic work may be permitted, Casper said, "provided it is consistent with operational rules for conservation."

The plan is the result of an intense review of university policies for the area, which involved the president in consultations with staff from the Stanford Planning Office, Office of Public Safety, the Center for Conservation Biology, the Stanford Management Company, the Legal Office and Facilities Operations and Maintenance. The review came at a time when the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors also has been reviewing parking and safety issues for the Stanford Avenue area near the Dish entrance. In public hearings and letters, some residents of the street complained that Dish-related traffic and parking made the roadway unsafe. They had lobbied to have the street closed to parking by non-residents, while recreational hikers and joggers had said they wanted to continue to park there, and some suggested the university add off-street parking.

The supervisors on May 2 voted to to reduce the speed limit from 35 to 25 miles per hour on Stanford Avenue between Juniperro Serra Boulevard and the Palo Alto city limits and to restrict parking on the street approaching the Dish, except for limited portions between Junipero Serra and Ryan Court. The county will also add a "speed table," which is a low version of a speed bump, and increase enforcement.

Casper noted that the Dish area is not a public park but serves as an important recreational hiking and jogging area for faculty, staff, students and neighbors of the university community. "The university wishes to maintain its use for those purposes," he said. "But such use must be compatible with our conservation and academic programs. To serve these recreational purposes, Stanford will, therefore, invest in repairing and clearly delineating hiking and jogging routes on approximately four miles of existing service roads." SR