An injection of federal funding means the public may finally have access to a swath of open space on Mt. Umunhum in the Santa Cruz Mountains, which has been closed to visitors for decades because of contamination at the site, a spokesman for the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District said.
Today, Congressman Mike Honda, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, and representatives for Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein joined representatives for the District to celebrate the $3.2 million in federal funds they helped allocate for the cleanup process and describe how it will be used.
"Mt. Umunhum is personally significant to me because its preservation has always been a dream of mine beginning long before my tenure on the Santa Clara Board of Supervisors, and continuing today as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives," Honda said.
The area is contaminated because the federal government failed to properly clean up the site after it hosted the Almaden Air Force Station, including up to 75 Air Force employees and their families, from 1957 to 1979, according to information provided by the District.
The federal government promised to clean up the site when District bought it on behalf of the public in 1986, but the District said that they left buildings on site containing potentially hazardous materials such as lead paint, asbestos and black mold.
The site continues to be closed to the public today as a result. But with the help of federal funding, the District hopes to begin removing contaminants by next fall.
Hazardous waste experts have estimated that the total cleanup cost is approximately $7.48 million, and restoration costs are estimated at roughly $4 million. Working with the Army Corps of Engineers, the District already landed $3.2 million from the federal government for the project, and has requested $4.28 more to complete the cleanup process.
The District will have to raise the $4 million necessary for restoration processes, said spokesman for the District Rudy Jurgensen.
"The long term goal is for Mt. Umunhum to become one of the Bay Area's most breathtaking public destinations," said Steve Abbors, the District's General Manager.
The District may have another obstacle to face after they clean the site as much of it is surrounded by private property, and the top cannot be accessed without crossing private property, according to Jurgensen.
"We're going to have to talk to -1/8the private property owners-3/8 about access," Jurgensen said.
The District has not yet spoken with them yet, he said.