County may reject gift from Stanford 

Even as the county struggles to find funds for long overdue improvements for parks and trails, supervisors could walk away from a multimillion dollar gift from Stanford University to improve one county trail.

The $8.4 million gift would go to relocate and widen parts of Alpine Trail, a path that alternates between dirt and concrete and runs from Menlo Park’s border with unincorporated San Mateo County through Portola Valley along Alpine Road.

Supervisors Rich Gordon and Jerry Hill on Wednesday recommended that the county walk away from the offer, citing local opposition and the fact that the county would have to agree to relocate a section of Alpine Road and bulldoze the side of a hill to accommodate the trail.

"I think the money can be better used with a regional approach," said Gordon, who has proposed the $8.4 million be set aside by Santa Clara County in a regional parks fund.

Hill couldn’t support the proposal because there were too many conditions attached to accepting the funds from Stanford, he said.

"There are so many strings, it makes Howdy Doody look like a live-wire act," Hill said, referring to the 1950s marionette show for kids.

"Just because there is money out there doesn’t mean you should go and get it," said Julia Bott, executive director of the San Mateo County Parks and Recreation Foundation, the nonprofit behind a November 2006 ballot bid to raise dedicated parks funds with a one-eighth-cent sales tax that voters rejected.

"What’s most important is ensuring that the money goes toward something that the community wants and needs," Bott said.

Stanford is offering $8.4 million for the 1.6-mile stretch of the trail to fulfill one of 107 conditions required by Santa Clara County to mitigate the university’s 5-million-square-foot development plan over the next 10 to 15 years, Stanford spokesman Larry Horton said. Santa Clara County agreed in 2005 to let Stanford offer the funds to San Mateo County for Alpine Trail, which is near the Santa Clara border.

Stanford was just learning of some supervisors’ opposition and didn’t have an immediate comment Wednesday, Horton said.

Santa Clara County officials also declined to comment, citing a wish to wait until the full Board of Supervisors votes on Tuesday.

Since the trail improvements were proposed, dozens of local neighborhood and environment groups have sprung up in opposition. The environmental group Committee for Green Foothills is suing to stop the path from going forward, Executive Director Holly Van Houten said.

"It’s just a bad idea every way you look at it," said Ginger Holt, a nearby resident and Alpine Trail user.

Redeveloping Alpine Trail into what some have called a 16-foot-wide sidewalk shouldn’t qualify as the "recreational trail improvements" Stanford agreed to as part of its development mitigation plan, Holt said. Such a trail would also raise safety issues, since it would cross numerous driveways and roads, Holt said.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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