First of two alignments for recreational trails approved by county

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors has given its approval for an alignment for one of two public trails that Stanford is required to build as a condition of the General Use Permit (GUP) that regulates development on university land.

On Sept. 13, the board asked county planners to negotiate an agreement with the university on the construction of the so-called S1-C trail alignment, which runs south from Page Mill Road to Interstate 280, west of Matadero Creek.

The approval is a significant milestone in talks that began when the permit was issued in 2000 when Stanford was negotiating the GUP with the county. The university agreed to build two public recreational trails that were part of the 1995 Countywide Trails Master Plan.

The S1-C alignment deviates significantly from the alignment shown in the county trails master plan, but will provide a superior scenic route, according to Larry Horton, senior associate vice president and director of government and community relations. He added that it also will cost the university millions more to develop than other alternatives considered. Stanford offered the S1-C alignment as part of a comprehensive package that calls for a decision from the board on the alignment of a second trail along the western edge of campus, referred to as the C-1 route.

At the meeting, supervisors directed county planners also to look at alternatives for the C-1 alignment. They asked planners to prepare a state environmental review, if needed, and to present an alignment for the western campus trail by February that is agreed upon by both the county planners and the university. Several C-1 route alternatives have been proposed, all generally following Alpine Road and nearby creeks.

Since 2002, Stanford has been asked to consider funding environmental reviews of nine possible routes, including routes into the interior of the Dish area. Although the GUP and the county master plan show the trails on the periphery of Stanford land, seven environmental groups had lobbied for more interior routes.

In addition to calling for alignment of trails away from sensitive ecosystems, the environmental organizations urged the county to require that the trails connect to other existing and planned trails, avoid busy intersections and be designed for recreational use, not transportation.

Grassroots organizations such as the Stanford Open Space Alliance and the Committee for Green Foothills have argued that the alignments in the Countywide Trails Master Plan were intended as a guide, not a mandate. Both groups did not actively oppose the S1-C route, although their stance has been that other recreationally preferable alignments were not considered at this month's hearing.

The supervisors asked that planners give a status report on Dec. 13 regarding talks on both alignments.