Mount Umunhum opens to the pub­lic

The Mercury News - - Local News - By Lisa Krieger lkrieger@ba­yare­anews­group.com

MT. UMUNHUM >> On a moun­tain peak long off-lim­its to the pub­lic, of­fi­cials gath­ered on Satur­day for a rare and breath­tak­ing sight: a 360-de­gree view of the San Fran­cisco Bay Area from Mount Umunhum, our new­est jewel in the re­gion’s park sys­tem.

Lead­ers of the civic, en­vi­ron­men­tal and Na­tive Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties streamed to the top of the 3,486-foot moun­tain, cel­e­brat­ing and snap­ping photos of a des­ti­na­tion that has been 37 years and $25 mil­lion in the mak­ing.

Its opening marks a new chap­ter for Mid­penin­sula Open Space Dis­trict’s park sys­tem and a sig­nal mo­ment for a land­scape that has played a ma­jor role in lo­cal his­tory.

In a re­gion that is in so many ways de­fined by its moun­tains — Mount Hamil­ton, Mount Di­ablo and Mount Ta­mal­pais — this peak has been frus­trat­ingly out of reach.

But that changes at 7 a.m. Mon­day, when the gates will open and vis­i­tors can start check­ing out the 12-acre moun­tain­top park, lo­cated within the 18,000-acre Sierra Azul Open Space Pre­serve south of Los Gatos.

At a lunch and rib­bon-cut­ting cer­e­mony on Satur­day, Steve Ab­hors, gen­eral man­ager of Mid­penin­sula Re­gional Open Space Dis­trict, called the opening a “spec­tac­u­lar” day. The project had been a long time com­ing and was full of set­backs, but it was worth the wait, he said.

“We ded­i­cate this to the peo­ple of the Bay Area — past, present and fu­ture,” Ab­hors said. “We’re here to cel­e­brate the com­ple­tion of an in­cred­i­ble jour­ney to get, clean up, re­store and open it for ev­ery­one to ex­plore.”

The promi­nent peak had been set to open last Oc­to­ber, but the opening was post­poned be­cause of con­struc­tion de­lays, in­creased costs and fierce win­ter

storms that de­liv­ered gale­force winds and 110 inches of rain.

Mid­pen bought the land for a mere $260,000 in 1986. About $25 mil­lion and 31 years later, it is re­born. Fed­eral fund­ing in 2009 helped re­store the peak.

The pas­sage of Santa Clara County’s Mea­sure AA in 2014 pro­vided fund­ing to com­plete the $15.8 mil­lion pub­lic ac­cess por­tion of the project, in­clud­ing road and trail im­prove­ments, park­ing ar­eas and weather shel­ters.

The peak shaped many gen­er­a­tions of Bay Area res­i­dents, from the Na­tive Amer­i­cans and U.S. Air Force per­son­nel who scanned the skies for enemy planes to for­mer Sil­i­con Val­ley Con­gress­man Mike Honda, who as a youth rode his mo­tor­cy­cle along its rough moun­tain roads — and as an elected leader in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., se­cured $3.2 mil­lion in fed­eral fund­ing to clean up the site.

“Thank you for hav­ing the fore­sight to put this to­gether and link it with trails in the val­ley,” he told the crowd. “You are re­ally go­ing to en­joy a re­turn on your in­vest­ment.”

One trail that starts at Bald Moun­tain takes hik­ers to the sum­mit. An­other trail con­nects to the 375-mile-long Bay Area Ridge Trail. When the 550mile Ridge Trail is com­plete, it will cre­ate a loop from Sonoma to Gil­roy.

But non­hik­ers can drive to the sum­mit, park and en­joy the vista. (Al­low about an hour to get there; the road is steep and windy.)

In a place where big projects seem to drag on in­def­i­nitely, the opening felt mo­men­tous.

The arc of the moun­tain’s his­tory is long, span­ning hun­dreds of gen­er­a­tions of indige­nous peo­ples, Ab­hors said.

Then it saw the ap­pear­ance of the mis­sions in the val­ley be­low, and later the ef­forts of Euro­pean set­tlers to eke out a liv­ing grow­ing fruits on its flanks.

In the 1950s, the moun­tain’s top was lev­eled and ter­raced to become a bustling Air Force sta­tion of 220 ser­vice per­son­nel and their fam­i­lies, scan­ning the west­ern hori­zon for Rus­sian bombers.

It wit­nessed the devel­op­ment of tech­nolo­gies that gave birth to Sil­i­con Val­ley.

What will you see when you visit?

If skies are clear, you can take in views from Napa wine coun­try to the north, the Mon­terey Penin­sula to the south, the Santa Cruz Moun­tains and Pa­cific Ocean to the west and, if you’re lucky, the Sierra to the east.

At the sum­mit, you’ll see plaques that ex­plain the nat­u­ral and cul­tural his­tory. There’s a cer­e­mo­nial cir­cle cre­ated for Na­tive Amer­i­can peo­ple and their guests to gather and pray.

You’ll see “The Cube,” a five-story con­crete radar tower build­ing that sits atop the sum­mit, a relic of the peak’s role in the Cold War.

While the build­ing has been pre­served, it is not open be­cause ma­jor re­pairs are needed.

You might see swal­lows and Pur­ple Martins duck and dive af­ter midges. Per­haps, some­day, you’ll see a Cal­i­for­nia con­dor.

“It took a while for all of us to ar­rive at this his­toric mo­ment,” said Ab­hors.

“For us at Mid­pen, it has been 31 years since we pur­chased the for­mer Al­maden Air Force Sta­tion from the U.S. gov­ern­ment.

For Chuck Skin­ner, the last com­man­der of that Air Force Sta­tion, it has been 37 years since they left af­ter the sta­tion closed. For Val Lopez and the Amah Mut­sun peo­ple, it has been 200 years since their cul­ture was dis­man­tled and sep­a­rated from their sa­cred moun­tain.”

“But we’re all here now and it’s a time to re­joice and re­ally en­joy the moun­tain,” Ab­hors said.

Gates open at 7 a.m. and close at sun­set. You can park at Bald Moun­tain and hike up to the sum­mit, or park in one of the sum­mit’s 60 spa­ces and hike down to Bald Moun­tain.

PHOTOS BY PA­TRICK TEHAN — STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

As the iconic radar tower pro­vides a back­drop, vis­i­tors take in the view Satur­day at the new pub­lic space atop Mount Umunhum east of Los Gatos. The Mid­penin­sula Re­gional Open Space Dis­trict spent $25mil­lion over eight years on the project.

Of­fi­cials cut the rib­bon dur­ing the opening cer­e­mony.

PA­TRICK TEHAN — STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Mount Umunhum, a 3,486-foot peak in the Santa Cruz moun­tains, has views of Napa, Mon­terey and the Pa­cific Ocean.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.