Master Plan Update (posted 10/7/2011): In response to high public interest and the successful procurement of outside funding to clean the Mt. Umunhum summit with the goal of opening this mountain peak to public use, the District has shifted staff resources to focus on the planning process for this particular site. Mt Umunhum is the highest peak at Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve and is the site of a former Air Force base atop the Santa Cruz Mountain ridge. The District expects to turn its attention back to the Master Plan at the completion of the Mt. Umunhum Site Plan, which is expected in the summer of 2012, and will incorporate the Site Plan into the Master Plan at this later time.
For more information on the Mt. Umunhum Site Planning process, please refer to the Mt. Umunhum Project page.
Just outside the town of Los Gatos, on either side of Lexington Reservoir,
sit the District’s two southernmost preserves, Sierra Azul ("Blue
Range") and Bear Creek Redwoods. These preserves are the focus of a public planning process
to develop a Master Plan that will serve as a guiding vision for the
land. The Master Plan will define the desired future use, direct resource
and land management efforts, and outline public access opportunities
at both preserves.
Sierra Azul is vast, encompassing more than 18,400 acres. Because of
its size, the Preserve is divided into four areas: the Kennedy-Limekiln
area adjacent to Lexington Reservoir County Park; the Cathedral Oaks
area, which is almost entirely surrounded by private property and is
therefore currently closed to the public; the Rancho de Guadalupe area,
which is also currently closed to the public pending the planning and
development of public access facilities; and the Mt. Umunhum area, named
for the 3,486-foot mountain that is its most dominant feature. Although
known for its chaparral-covered slopes, Sierra Azul has pockets of serpentine
grasslands, bay and blue oak woodlands, and lush riparian corridors,
including the headwaters of Guadalupe Creek. Home to deer, bobcat, coyote,
and the federally threatened red-legged frog, the preserve also provides
exceptional habitat for the elusive and far-ranging mountain lion. It
has the beauty and ruggedness of an unspoiled wilderness and attracts
visitors seeking a more vigorous hiking, biking, or equestrian experience.
No less beautiful and rugged, although much smaller in size at just
over 1,430 acres, Bear Creek Redwoods abounds with Douglas fir, oak,
and madrone as well as the redwoods for which it is named. There are
also grasslands, five ponds, and three perennial creeks. Of historic
interest, the Preserve is the site of the former Alma College and once
contained the first mainland radio tower to receive the news of
the attack on Pearl Harbor. Much further back, the Preserve served as one
of General Fremont’s camp sites. Now, with its direct access to
Lexington Reservoir County Park, its proximity to State Route 17, and
its potential connections to many trails in the region, including
the Bay Area Ridge Trail, Bear Creek Redwoods can easily become one of the
Bay area’s most popular recreation destinations.
The master planning process aims to provide the public with greater opportunities for
recreation access, interpretation, and education, while protecting the
natural, cultural, and historic resources of the landscape. The District
is developing a long-term vision for these public lands and addressing opportunities
for access and regional trail connectivity, species and habitat
protection, safety concerns, and maintenance issues, among others. District
staff and consultants are actively soliciting and encouraging community
involvement from various agencies, non-profit organizations,
neighbors, and constituents throughout the planning process.