Carol Gittens

Hikers, bikers and horse riders soon will be able to use 14
miles of trails
Seven years after the county bought the former Harvey Bear and Mendoza ranches adjacent to Coyote Lake County Park, the public will soon be able to enjoy the first phases of a 10-year improvement plan.

In May, Harvey Bear Ranch east of Morgan Hill will open 14 miles of multi-use trails to hikers, bikers and horse riders, with trail heads at Mendoza Ranch, Coyote Dam, Coyote Lake campground and in San Martin. When it opens, the park will be known as the Coyote Lake/Harvey Bear Ranch County Park.

Also in the works are new equestrian staging areas at Mendoza Ranch and just north of San Martin Avenue, and new shower facilities at the existing campgrounds, which will be reconfigured to give campers more room.

“It’s very exciting,” said Senior Park Ranger Christopher Crockett. “We’re basically getting a whole new park. There’s a whole new set of challenges for park rangers and staff to address, but it’s going to be beautiful.”

Multi-use trails have been known to cause conflict among users, who complain that one activity or another is ruining the trails, but Crockett said that there’s little difference in damage inflicted by mountain bikes and 1,500-pound horses.

“The biggest problem with any usage is illegal off-road use,” Crockett said, “people cross-cutting trails.”

David Lake, a senior inspector with Santa Clara County, said that rain has “bogged down” work on the trails that began in December, but said the project should be completed on time.

In addition to building new trails and renovating others, workers have also been re-seeding several miles of old trail that do not meet safety standards, which call for trials to climb at grades of less than 10 percent.

“Some of the trails were too steep to begin with, it was hard access,” Lake said. “Some of them had a 30 percent grade.”

Lake said that winter rains also pushed up the project’s budget by forcing workers to protect Coyote Lake’s overflow ponds from sediment and prevent erosion on the steep hills.

“Anytime you do anything between October 15 and April 15, it’s more of a headache,” Lake said.

The first phase is expected to cost about $1.5 million. More dramatic improvements are planned for the second phase, including most projects on the 300-acre Western Flat, the most easily accessible and developable portion of the parkland that sits north of San Martin Avenue on the park’s far-western edge.

That phase would include features such as an 18-hole golf course and events center, a facility for equestrian and agricultural education, a bike park and irrigated turf areas.

The idea is to complete those improvements – probably in stages – within a decade, but the timeline depends on funding availability. Projects in this phase are expected to cost between $23 million and $30 million.

New campgrounds near Coyote Lake and an environmental education center are among improvements in a third phase that would cost between $1.1 million and $2.4 million.

Gilroy Dispatch reporter Matt King covers Santa Clara County. He can be reached at [email protected] m or 847-7240.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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