Implementation of the Watershed Protection Plan and other related trail upgrades and drainage improvements will:
- Prevent sediment delivery to Lawrence and El Corte de Madera Creeks in order to improve water quality for downstream fish species
- Improve overall watershed health
- Enhance the trail experience for Preserve visitors.
The purpose of the Program is to protect and restore watershed integrity while maintaining opportunities for year-round multiple use recreation and environmental education. The Program implements long-term solutions to erosion and creek sedimentation problems caused in part by the legacy of logging roads. A major portion of the work is focused on improving the road and trail system and stream crossings.
The Program also calls for long-term maintenance and monitoring of streams and trails and extensive environmental education and public outreach.
El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve encompasses 2,817 acres in the upper headwaters of the San Gregorio Creek watershed. This watershed provides critical habitat for steelhead rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss irideus) and coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch). Steelhead are federally listed as a threatened species, and coho salmon are listed by state and federal agencies as endangered on California's Central Coast. These species have experienced dramatic population declines primarily due to habitat loss from streambed sedimentation associated with water diversions, road construction, mining, grazing, and timber harvest activities.
This Preserve offers a unique and complex challenge to the District and its partnering agencies. Not only does the Preserve occupy a key location within the San Gregorio Creek Watershed with sensitive fish habitat, but its extensive network of former logging roads make it extremely popular among hikers, equestrians, and mountain bikers. To balance the health of the watershed (and of the people and animals who depend on it) with recreation uses, the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District partnered with the National Marine Fisheries Service, California Department of Fish and Game, and the Regional Water Quality Control Board and created a comprehensive Watershed Protection Program for the Preserve.
The District inherited a network of roads from the logging era when it purchased the land. Most erosion in the Preserve can be traced to undersized or failing drainage culverts and the intersections of old logging roads with streams. These logging roads were constructed using heavy equipment. The most effective and cost-effective restoration work is accomplished using the same sized equipment used in the original construction.
Construction scars will be only temporary; in a few years, vegetation will flourish in the riparian corridors long buried by logging road construction debris. Future trail users will not recognize the former logging roads as they enjoy pleasant trails winding through the redwood forest.