Approval Expected in Early 2019 Overwhelming Support Shown for Azalea Hill Project
On November 20, over fifty people filled the Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) Board of Directors meeting to show support for the Azalea Hill and Liberty Gulch Trail and Habitat Enhancement Project, a proposal that would create bike access between Pine Mountain and Mt. Tam across a pristine hill with spectacular views of Alpine Lake.
After delays stemming from native plant concerns, final approval is now slated for early 2019.
Youth leads the charge
The future of Marin trail advocacy and stewardship is in good hands. Nearly half of the audience was made up of members of local mountain biking teams, including students from Drake, Tam, Redwood and San Domenico high schools.
Several students spoke of their desire to be outside and feel safe. Audrey Fehlhaber of Drake High School spoke of her experience leading middle schoolers on rides and the constraints of having to use roads to access trails. She voiced her excitement for the project, saying it would expand their riding opportunities without having to ride on Fairfax-Bolinas Road.
This was echoed by Board Director Larry Bragman, who called out his experience riding on the watershed and the dangers of using the narrow, windy section of Fairfax-Bolinas Road.
Habitat benefits applauded
Cyclists and representatives from local conservation organizations voiced support for the project’s abundance of habitat benefits, including the restoration of a large native plant habitat and the reduction of sediment currently being deposited in Alpine Lake.
Alex Frankel of the Tam team (pictured above) was one of many who pledged to stay on the trail to avoid impacts to the unique plants and wildlife on Azalea Hill.
MMWD staff is considering minor additions to the project based on comments, which delayed the approval of the CEQA document. We expect that step to take place in January or February. Watch for the project approval meeting date next month, when we will again turn out to support the project.
Following approval of the CEQA document, MMWD will begin raising money for implementation.
The key goals of the Azalea Hill project include:
Removing 4.5 miles of social trails that fragment a serpentine plant community.
Enhancing a historic ranch road to provide a safe multi-use trail between Mount Tam and Pine Mountain open to people on bike, foot, and horse.
Rerouting the existing Azalea Hill Trail to reduce erosion and improve the trail experience for hikers and equestrians (this trail would remain closed to bikes).
Reducing sediment draining into Alpine Lake.
Azalea Hill is part of the MCBC Off-Road Program’s Three Gaps Initiative, which is focused on closing the three biggest gaps in Marin’s trail network in order to provide safe, continuous off-road experiences.