A new trail that opened Friday near Woodside is the final phase of an 18-year watershed protection program by the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District.
The new Oljon Trail was revamped and is now ready for hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians in Midpen's El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve, just off Skyline Boulevard.
The trail and surrounding area is free and open to the public daily, from one half-hour before sunrise to one half-hour after sunset.
Measure AA, approved by local voters in 2014, helped Midpen complete the new trail and forest habitat restoration, Midpen General Manager Ana Ruiz said.
"The increased public access is readily apparent, but the parts you don't see are critical too: the old, eroding logging road that was returned to nature, the improved quality of the water flowing under a new bridge or through a repaired culvert, and the curvature of the trail ensuring water flows off quickly and filters into the earth," Ruiz said.
The watershed work keeps sediment out of the streams that provide critical downstream habitat for endangered coho salmon and threatened steelhead trout, Ruiz said.
The new 1.3-mile segment of the single-track Oljon Trail required removing a half-mile of old logging roads and more than a half-mile of the steep Steam Donkey Trail, to complete the El Corte de Madera Creek watershed protection program.
The program included work on 24 miles of roads and trails to control erosion and bring the watershed back to health.
The Oljon trail follows a redwood-forested ridgeline on the western slope of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
The trail allows visitors to explore many new loop trail options without having to travel along Skyline Boulevard and Bear Gulch Road, Ruiz said.
There are signs of clear-cutting that began in the 1860s in the area, such as notches in old-growth redwood stumps and rusted remains of heavy equipment. A few remaining old-growth redwoods can be still be found, including the Methuselah Tree just across Skyline Boulevard.
The preserve is also known for large tafoni sandstone formations weathered by thousands of years to create patterns and cave-like indentations in the rock.
The preserve was established by Midpen in 1986 with a 2,200-acre acquisition, the largest at that time, which has grown to 2,906 acres with 34 miles of multiuse trails.
To help protect valuable natural resources and reduce soil erosion and sedimentation in streams, visitors are required to remain on designated trails. This preserve is closed to all off-trail use.
More information is available at openspace.org/ECDM.