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PATHS' Trail Proposal for the Dish Area

Statement by P.A.T.H.S.,

In September, Stanford University closed off approximately 80% of the trails and paths in the Stanford Foothills (Dish area) to public access, due to environmental damage thought to be due to public use of the area. Because we believe that public use is not a major factor in whatever ecosystem degradation is present, and because Stanford desires a good relationship with surrounding communities, and in light of Santa Clara County staff comments on the Stanford Community Plan: "Development associated with the General Use Permit creates a need and an opportunity for trail dedication on Stanford land" (p. 78, Modifications to staff recommended Community Plan/GUP, October 2000), P.A.T.H.S. offers a possible design for trail and path accessibility in the Dish area. We request your input and welcome ideas for other scenarios.

Our scenario

  • Stanford hosts a public trail planning process in which community members, resource management experts, and Stanford together create a Master Trail Plan for the Stanford Foothills, giving strong consideration to establishing regional trail connections.
  • For a specified time period, say 25 years, or 50 years, or in perpetuity, Stanford grants the county easements or uses another legal tool which would allow right of passage on the trails.
  • The county builds and maintains trails, assuming liability through an agreement.
  • Responsibility for oversight and operations is undertaken by a third party such as County Parks and Recreation, Midpeninsula Open Space District, etc.

Of course many details remain to be worked out, including cost distribution, burden of liability, and format of the planning process. This type of plan would be a tremendous opportunity for Stanford to enhance it's community relations at a low cost to the University, both in terms of time and money. A precedent for this kind of inter-organizational alliance is found in the joint power agreement governing San Francisquito Creek, where Stanford, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, the Santa Clara Water District and San Mateo County have combined forces for the last two years.

Considerations Relevant to Trail Proposal by P.A.T.H.S.

The 5th Supervisoral District in Santa Clara County has for years paid 26% of the annual tax dollars received by the Park Charter Fund and has received 16% of the county's park acreage. We'd like to better understand this seemingly disproportionate allocation of park land, and propose that county involvement in construction and maintenance of trails on Stanford lands could assist in remedying this apparent inequity.

There is no county park in the 5th district north of Rancho San Antonio, and none in the northwestern corner of the county. Trails and paths in the Dish area have proven (by their usage) to be needed and used.

We must question the assumption that a sensitive ecosystem cannot coexist with public usage of an area. This is shown to be an erroneous assumption by the existence of many parks and open spaces with environmentally sensitive habitat which at the same time allow public access, such as Crystal Springs Reservoir Park, many Midpeninsula Regional Open Space parks, and parks throughout the world such as Hampstead Heath in London, where sensitive habitat has long been managed for public use by a scientific and systematic resource management approach.


This site is operated by a group of Stanford-area people, many of whom are Stanford alumni.
It is not an official site of Stanford University.
Last update November 16, 2001.