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Posted on: May 26, 2022

Protecting the Environment Around Coastal Informal Paths and Trails

It’s that time of year for a reminder about the use of informal paths and trails on public lands, and the prohibited removal of vegetation in those sensitive areas.

The area west of Railroad Avenue includes conservation easements, private properties, and unimproved public lands. The informal paths and trails in this area are often used by residents to directly access the Coastal Trail from western neighborhoods. However, in the interest of environmental stewardship and respectful consideration of private property rights, the City encourages residents and visitors to instead use only designated formal paths and trails. Introduction of humans and domesticated animals into these sensitive informal trail areas is harmful to the environment, and contrary to the California Coastal Act’s habitat protection requirements.  

Of even more concern, over the last several weeks the City has received calls from community members about individuals who have been removing vegetation (e.g. mowing, weed-whacking, etc.) from informal paths and trails, especially within the area west of Railroad Avenue. Unauthorized vegetation removal in this area is prohibited, and must stop. It is crucially important to recognize that the vast majority of these informal paths and trails are located on lands which either contain or have the potential to contain endangered or threatened flora and fauna.

For the individual, damaging these areas can be a costly mistake as any “take” (e.g. killing or harming) of a protected status species (even accidental) is subject to significant fines and even potential jail time. With the exception of previously approved programs for fuel load management (such as those involving goat grazing) removal of vegetation in such sensitive areas is not permitted.

The City asks that residents and other visitors cease mowing or otherwise removing vegetation from informal paths and trails immediately, and discontinue that activity going forward. If you witness these activities, please call the Sheriff’s Dispatch at (650) 726-8286. The City does not perform vegetation management on undeveloped streets due to environmental constraints. The annual grazing program adjacent to Railroad Avenue was permitted by the City and is an environmentally responsible approach to creating a fire break.

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