By Mary Andersen
Since 2013, plans for the Central Coast’s first mountain bike park in Felton have wended their way through the county planning process. Currently in the environmental impact report phase, the park would be located on the Felton Meadow, scene of a contentious 2008 battle between environmental activists and affordable housing advocates over 55 housing units. Environmentalists won that round. Because the county voted to stop funding that project, the developer put the property up for sale, and Mount Hermon scooped it up with plans for recreational use.
The $4 million project proposal details 2 components – a bike park and a bike school. The park will consist of pump tracks, a mountain bike skills zone, aerial jump bag, gravity trails, a magic carpet ride, and a viewing tower. The school’s coaches will teach trail-riding skills. The facility also promises a day camp for kids, community garden, and science center.
Controversy has arisen from environmental corners regarding a May 2012 letter in which Mount Hermon Manager Mark Lilley stated that “MHA [Mount Hermon Association] intends to use the property for various recreational camping purposes – and will work with local residents and groups to ensure that our uses are compatible with many community values we all share.” The plans are “essentially green, open space, and scenic; and enriching the lives of children in our camping program – in a beautiful natural environment.”
Beth Hollenbeck of SLV Citizens Organized (SLVCORE), opposes the bike park project for multiple reasons. She grew up near the meadow and has concerns about traffic, water usage, and viewshed. Hollenbeck points to the 1987 Felton Town Plan, which designates a portion of the meadow as a scenic view corridor. Hollenbeck says, “I have concerns about overdevelopment on a fragile riparian ecosystem that exists in the meadow, from plants to animals to water recharge for our over-drafted aquifer.”
The Valley Women’s Club opposes the bike park and representatives say they would like to see the meadow stay as it is now, a wildlife habitat. They have taken the lead on monitoring the county’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) process.
Felton Business Association President, Judy Anderson says, “This looks to be a good addition to our community. Mount Hermon has always been a good neighbor. I believe that the bike park would bring tourists and shoppers into our downtown cores.”
Dale Pollock, Mount Hermon’s Facilities Engineer, says that project planners fully intend to comply with the requirements coming out of the EIR, whatever the findings are, and that Mount Hermon is fully committed to addressing those findings.
As we wait for the language in the draft environmental impact report, Hollenbeck concedes that she would support a gentler use of the land, “I’m not opposed to a nature center, community garden, a place for campers to come experience nature in a natural setting.”
The debate raises questions about property rights and diverse community values. According to the county, Mount Hermon has the authority to develop their property within the confines of county planning ordinances. Yet community members have always sought to dictate planning policy and take guardianship of how their downtowns develop. The San Lorenzo Valley has a long history of doing just that.
Originally posted 2017
Valley Women’s Club www.valleywomensclub.org/environmental-issues/mt-hermon-felton-meadow-project
Mount Hermon Adventures: https://mounthermonadventures.com//
Photo credit: Tim Foster