Over 50 miles of unofficial trails impacting habitats
There are over 150 miles of official roads and trails on the watershed for visitors to use, as identified in the district's 2005 Mt. Tamalpais Watershed Road and Trail Management Plan. These roads and trails are maintained in a manner that strives to minimize their impact on the health of the watershed while providing a safe outdoor experience for visitors. The Road and Trail Management Plan also identified more than 53 miles of unofficial trails on Mt. Tamalpais in 2005. Despite the plan, the number of unofficial trails on the watershed continues to grow.
These trails are undesirable for several reasons:
- Many of them fragment native habitat and disrupt wildlife populations, threatening their long term health and even survival.
- Undesirable trails, built without following guidelines designed to strictly minimize erosion, increase sediment delivery to creeks and the reservoirs affecting water quality.
- Undesirable trails provide pathways for invasive weeds to penetrate native wild lands and detract from the natural beauty of the watershed.
- Unofficial trails present a public safety hazard, increasing the risk of trail users getting lost because the routes are not signed or maintained.
Project Restore has been implemented in stages. Since Project Restore began in 2009, its goals have been:
- Protect water supply and water quality by minimizing erosion from trails
- Protect watershed visitors by minimizing their chances of getting lost
- Reduce the impact of trails on wetlands, riparian areas and other environmentally sensitive habitats that are home to special status plant and animal species
- Reduce the impact of trails on the watershed's natural ecological functions
MMWD's approach is to follow best management practices, BMPs, combined with dozens of environmental protection measures, in the patrol, upgrade, and maintenance of its official trails. The district is challenged to maintain all of the official trails in this way with its limited resources and unofficial trails only make this problem more difficult.
An open house was held at Sky Oaks Watershed Headquarters in September 2009 to reach out to watershed visitors about this project. Almost 50 interested citizens attended the workshop. You may review the comments from the breakout groups at the meeting online.