San Jose's Mount Umunhum receives federal clean-up funds

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Joel, Dec 21, 2009.

  1. Joel

    Joel Well-Known Member

    Name:
    Joel
    By Karen de Sá

    kdesa@mercurynews.com
    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
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    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."
     
  2. mnb

    mnb Obliterates Stereotypes

    Location:
    San Jose
    Name:
    Curt
    I would hope that the road would be opened to motorized vehicles as well.
     
  3. ncwreckchaser

    ncwreckchaser Unknown User

    Location:
    San Jose
    Name:
    Douglas
    I've never been to the top of Mt. Umunhum, Almaden Air Force Base on a warm Summer night :shhh . This site should be preserved for future generations, it is a piece of local "Cold War" history.
     
  4. jraice

    jraice Member

    Location:
    Los Gatos
    Name:
    Jordan
    Come on guys! Maybe none of you live close enough to this road but I don't like this at all.

    Just means more cops and a lot more cars on Hicks road...

    Great riding road for me when I don't have much time to go riding... and a spot that not many know about (or atleast don't care to ride).
     
  5. DoubleD

    DoubleD Pogue Mahone

    Location:
    Aptos
    Name:
    Todd
    Pisses me off that someone tells me I can't take my life into my own hands. I'd be stoked to see the site as it currently sits, but if they clean it up it will have lost most of it's value to me. In fact if it's ever opened as a park I will probably never go there. I'd be stoked if they just left it as it is and let us legally go up there.
     
  6. ghostbuster

    ghostbuster Well-Known Member

    Name:
    Pete
    My friend was the resident ranger up at Mt U for a number of years before the passage of Prop 65, after which he had to move out due to the asbestos in his house. With access to all of the base we explored it on numerous occassions, walking through the buildings and jeeping on the property. Lots of stuff mothballed up there. The old radar building (aka the Monolith) is cool, spent many a night up there with cocktails watching the sun go down or the 4th of July fireworks. They have been talking for many years about cleaning it up but I doubt it will ever be open to the public.
     
  7. ncwreckchaser

    ncwreckchaser Unknown User

    Location:
    San Jose
    Name:
    Douglas
  8. wsmc831

    wsmc831 Registered User

    Name:
    Jason
    um..huh?

    As someone that lives very close, I would love to see it cleaned up and opened.
     
  9. mnb

    mnb Obliterates Stereotypes

    Location:
    San Jose
    Name:
    Curt
    Wow, that would have been the first phone book my Mom got when we moved to Morgan Hill in 1967.


    I'm with Todd, I'd love for them just to open up the roads. It'd be nice to have some friggin dirt to ride on! The fact it's dirt would limit the cagers. But I'm sure if they open it, they'll grade and groom the road like some pristine hiking trail and close it to all vehicular traffic.
     
  10. jraice

    jraice Member

    Location:
    Los Gatos
    Name:
    Jordan
    You don't think there will be an increase in cage and LEO traffic to the point where it is not as great of a riding road as it is now?

    Also I have always liked the mystery of Mt. Umunhum...

    Not to mention the risk of going up there with the cartels... Which makes me wonder, if its opened up, how long before some hikers come across a "crop field" and get killed?

    It wasn't to long ago if I recall correctly that two state park officers investigating were murdered up there but cartel members.
     
  11. ghostbuster

    ghostbuster Well-Known Member

    Name:
    Pete

    The road to the base and all the roads in it are paved though it has been about 15 years since I have been up there so I imagine the condition of the pavement has deteriorated some. The dirt roads we drove on were behind the officer's houses and down to Lake Elsman but we did cross some private property (with permission) to get to the lake.
     
  12. wsmc831

    wsmc831 Registered User

    Name:
    Jason
    No, not at all. They don't staff the sheriffs substation at Loma Prieta any more, and the only place I've ever seen an officer is on Summit...which is where they belong. They don't venture far from that unless it's on old san jose, santa clara side.

    Cartels? In 05 a worker was killed guarding a pot farm, never heard of any officials being killed.

    too many homes for much possibility of large grow operations, and if they open up parks any illegal activity will move away.


    this isn't Columbia, the area isn't filled with gun toting crazies that shoot first and ask questions later, though if people think that I don't mind a bit, keeps the traffic down.
     
  13. Frank

    Frank xoxoxoxo

    Awesome and about time! The view up there is great! I once got into a little trouble exploring up around there with my bike. Thankfully they let me go with a warning. :biggrin
     
  14. Outfox

    Outfox Born to Ride

    Location:
    Gilroy
    Name:
    Ryan
    I look forward to it.

    They will be holding a public meeting to get input for the parks usage. In a fantasy world, the park would include moto-riders. The reality is that the hikers, equestrians, and mountain bikers will fight it out for usage.

    No matter what, it will be a great view to share with the kids or your main squeeze.
     
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