You Soon Will Have New Access to South Bay Land

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    NEWSLETTERS

    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.