By Karen de Sá firstname.lastname@example.org Posted: 12/21/2009 06:25:19 PM PST Updated: 12/21/2009 06:25:20 PM PST Mount Umunhum — with panoramic vistas stretching from Monterey Bay to San Francisco — has moved one step closer to becoming the destination that hikers, joggers and bird-watchers have looked longingly at for decades. The federal defense budget, signed this weekend by President Barack Obama, includes $3.2 million to clean up Mount Um, a site contaminated in its former life as an Air Force base and radar station. The work will help transform San Jose's highest peak into a public recreation site at a time when state and county leaders are struggling to pay for parks amid devastating budget cuts. Open space advocates who have spent more than 20 years fighting for the funds to demolish lead and asbestos-tainted buildings atop the 3,486-foot mountain cheered the news, announced by The White House Monday. "You see the views, and you think: 'Wow, it's incredible!'" said Basim Jaber, whose work honoring veterans has allowed him to access the coveted mountaintop. "These are views most people don't normally see." The money is only a fraction of the $11 million needed to complete the overhaul of Mount Umunhum's summit, but trails and scenic look-out posts could be constructed within two years, said U.S. Rep Mike Honda, D-Campbell. Rudy Jurgensen, spokesman for the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, which owns the property, said in the coming months a fundraising campaign will be launched to help pay for the Advertisement project. The district also will hold a series of public meetings to gather input on how to design the site for recreational use. "This will be a very important and great destination for people one day," Jurgensen said. "We purchased this former Air Force base in 1986, and very little clean up has happened, although we've been asking and asking and asking. "By this act of Congress, the work can finally start after all these years." Honda, who pushed for the federal funds as part of the newly enacted $636 billion defense appropriations bill, said the Army Corps of Engineers can now move from studying the extent of the contamination problem to actually cleaning it up. Demolition of 88 dilapidated buildings — including former military housing and possibly the towering structure that once housed a Cold War-era radar known as "the cube—" is expected to begin this spring. The mountain's story is unique. Named after the Ohlone word for hummingbird, the mountain was home to the Almaden Air Force Station from 1957 to 1980. Six years later, it was acquired by the open space district. But due to underground oil barrels, lead-based paints, asbestos-laden building materials, transformers and other toxins, the summit has been off limits to the public for more than five decades. In an interview Monday, Honda said he will continue seeking an additional $800,000 that will be needed to demolish and remove all the contaminated structures and prepare the South San Jose site for public access. "It's what we call earmarks," Honda said. "And everyone is trying to give earmarks and that whole process a bad name — for me it isn't. It's being aggressive and going after federal tax dollars to bring back to California and this area for good purposes." The fate of "the cube" — the towering structure that once held the radar atop Mount Umunhum, remains uncertain. Long a landmark in the area, the structure could remain in place for historic purposes, or be torn down with the other buildings, depending on cost and contamination factors. The 68-year-old Honda, who is the son of strawberry-picking sharecroppers and a lifelong resident of the Valley, said looking up at the structure has long been a part of local lore, tantalizingly close, but off-limits. "When I got tired bending over pulling weeds from the strawberry patch, " Honda recalled, "I'd stand up straight and look at that ridgeline."