On May 3rd, there was a groundbreaking ceremony at the Silicon Valley’s newest redwood preserve in the Los Gatos Mountains. Scheduled to open in spring 2019, the Bear Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve is five minutes south of downtown Los Gatos off highway 17.
At an estimated cost of $35 million, the 1423-acre Preserve will be completed in three Phases over twenty years. The initial area of the park is slated to open to the public next May, and will include six miles of trails for hiking and horseback riding, a half-mile pathway around the preserve’s upper lake, and a 50-car parking area with restroom and trailhead access. Habitat restoration, erosion and cultural resource prevention and watershed protection are built into the plan and are considered the highest priority. The multi-use trail designed for use by mountain bikers won’t be constructed until at least 2020 and possibly as late as 2026.
According to the Open Space website, the three developmental Phases of Bear Creek Redwoods Preserve include the following:
Phase I – In Progress
- Implement high priority resource management projects, including invasive species removal, drainage improvements to reduce erosion, and pond stabilization;
- Construct the Alma College Parking Area; formalize an at-grade pedestrian crossing of Bear Creek Road;
- Open the western Preserve to hiking and equestrian access;
- Begin high priority improvements to Bear Creek Stables to expand public use, project natural resources, and upgrade boarding facilities;
- Begin rehabilitation of the Alma College Cultural Landscape or upgrade perimeter fencing as needed to restrict access.
- Open eastern zone to general hiking and equestrian access;
- Construct the northern segment of the new multi-use through trail, formalize connections to Lexington County Park and the Skyline-Summit area; and open to hiking, equestrian, and bicycle use;
- Continue improvements to Bear Creek Stables;
- Continue rehabilitation of the Alma College Cultural Landscape.
- Construct approximately three (3) miles of new trail to complete a connection to Summit Road in the eastern Preserve zone;
- Construct north Parking area, if needed
The preserve is being created on the site of Alma College, a Jesuit school that was open from 1934 through 1969, when it relocated to Berkeley. Since then, the buildings, which were significantly damaged in the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, have sat abandoned, though the land itself has changed hands multiple times over the years.
In 1999, the Mid-peninsula Regional Open Space District contracted to acquire the acreage, a move it has been contemplating since 1975. Once a prime location for the logging industry, today it is one of the largest second growth redwood forests in the county, with some trees estimated to be upwards of 900 years of age. In addition to redwood glens, the property has oak woodlands, meadowlands, creeks, lakes and awe-inspiring views of Lexington Reservoir below and the Sierra Azul mountain range.
“It’s going to be a really amazing place. It’s some of the best-preserved second-growth redwood forest in the South Bay. To be able to go out there and experience the redwood forest and walk down the trail and feel the dampness of the air and see the light trickle through the trees; it’s an amazing experience,” states Ana Ruiz, general manager of the Mid-peninsula Regional Open Space District.