Supervisors OK study on buying land to extend De Anza trail

A wary Board of Supervisors on Tuesday agreed to spend $30,000 on a study that could eventually lead to adding another mile of usable bicycling roadway to the De Anza Historic Trail near Edna. But they made clear that they are not committing the county to buying any land.

“There’s not an implicit sense of having to purchase something,” said Adam Hill in voting for the expenditure. The vote was 4-1, with Frank Mecham opposed.

The land in question is three parcels on the Edna Valley portion of the De Anza trail. Combined, they total slightly more than 8 acres.

If the project went forward, and if the land could be linked to other trails that are open to the public, it could improve bicycle and hiking access between San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach.

The link would become part of the Nogales, Ariz., to San Francisco Juan Batista De Anza Historic Trail, along which De Anza led settlers to San Francisco.

The proposal is unusual in that a private citizen, Eric Meyer, bought one parcel of 1.2 acres, worth $120,000, and holds the other two, collectively worth $325,000 and totaling 7 acres, in escrow. He wants to sell them to the county.

The county’s $30,000 expenditure Tuesday is designed to determine how feasible such a purchase would be. The county’s staff must conduct assessments and title searches, among other things.

Although supervisors embraced the larger issue of opening more bicycle trails, they also expressed misgivings.

Chief among them was whether conducting the study would inexorably lead to buying the land. If they spend roughly half a million on that, supervisors asked, what other projects would not be funded?

There are other proposals they want to finance that come mostly from the same pot of money, including youth sports fields in San Miguel and other connecting trails, such as one between Atascadero and Templeton.

County Parks Director Curtis Black told supervisors that buying the Edna property ranked 16 out of 17 on a “wish list” of items that could be funded from Park Public Facilities fees.

There are many other questions as well, supervisors said. “It’s dependent on a whole bunch of ‘what ifs,’ ” board Chairman Jim Patterson said.

There was some hesitation about even spending the $30,000, which some supervisors suggested could be spent on deferred maintenance at county parks.