On Friday, September 8, 2017, the Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) released an Initial Study and Proposed Mitigated Negative Declaration for the “Amendment of the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed Road and Trail Management Plan – Restoration of Azalea Hill.”
The proposed amendment and project aim to remove approximately 4.4 miles of non-system, or unofficial roads and trails from Azalea Hill. These non-system routes have a wide variety of undesirable effects on the environment ranging from water quality impacts, to wildlife migration or foraging barriers, to physical removal of habitat. Azalea Hill also has areas of serpentine soils where many special status species plants grow that can be easily damaged by people traveling off-trail. In addition, the serpentine soils are very erosive, and sediment from these sites makes its way into Alpine Lake.
Key to the project is what is now called Liberty Gulch Road. It was originally constructed to replace the county’s Bolinas-Fairfax carriage road which was flooded by Alpine Dam and the resulting lake in 1919. This unpaved road has since been abandoned and is Azalea Hill’s major contributor of sediment to Alpine Lake. The project proposes to upgrade or stormproof the road to strictly minimize its erosion, and convert it to a small vehicle road, or multi-purpose route, that would restore the connection for all users from the “lakes” area to the “Pine Mountain” area. The existing Azalea Hill Trail would also be upgraded to minimize its erosion and make it more sustainable. Lastly, the parking lot, signage and visitor amenities at the Azalea Hill trailhead would be improved.
The Mt. Tamalpais Watershed Road and Trail Management Plan (RTMP) provides guidance for not only best management practices and design guidelines for roads and trails, but also for addressing non-system routes on the Watershed. To meet this objective, MMWD launched “Project Restore,” in 2009 to restore natural habitats and improve visitor safety. The Azalea Hill Restoration Project would follow in the footsteps of this successful effort that has removed nearly 10 miles of non-system routes from the Watershed.
The main objectives of the project are to:
• Restore habitat, including sensitive serpentine habitats, by removing unnecessary roads and trails;
• Ensure the official routes are sustainable, and designed and managed in a manner that strictly minimizes erosion and water quality impacts;
• Provide environmentally sensitive connections over Azalea Hill for all users (hikers, equestrians, cyclists and district patrol and response staff); and
• Improve the visitor experience.
A comprehensive project description and the associated mitigation measures, best management practices and environmental analysis can be found in the Initial Study and Proposed Mitigated Negative Declaration available on MMWD’s web site on the Environmental Reports web page.
The Mt. Tamalpais Watershed Road and Trail Management Plan identifies approximately 150 miles of official roads and trails for visitors to use. The district strives to maintain these roads and trails so they have minimal impact on surrounding habitats while providing a safe outdoor experience for visitors. The district asks all watershed visitors for their cooperation by staying on official trails and respecting the habitat restoration work in projects like this.
If you would like more information on the project, its background, or the process for providing comments on the Initial Study and Proposed Mitigated Negative Declaration, please contact Nicholas Salcedo, Senior Management Analyst, at email@example.com.
If you’d like to help the District further in its efforts to maintain the Watershed’s official trail network or improve its natural habitat, please consider participating in one of the District’s volunteer Trail Crews on the first Saturday of each month. If you would like more information about volunteering, please contact MMWD Volunteer Program Coordinator Suzanne Whelan at firstname.lastname@example.org.