I was invited on a fact-finding trip along with representatives from MMWD, the National Parks Conservancy, and the California State Parks to visit with the Mid-peninsula Open Space team that was responsible for the restoration of the Almaden Air Force Station at the top of Mt. Umunhum in Santa Cruz Mountains outside of Los Gatos.  

What a great trip!

Mt. Umunhum was a SAGE (Semi Automated Ground Environment) radar station that supplied integrated fire control data to the Nike missile system in our area in the 1960s-70s.  This specific radar weighed over 85 TONS and so required a very special concrete blockhouse to support it… in this case a huge structure that housed all of the electronics for the giant radar sail on top.

The Air Force Station bears incredible similarities to the West Peak site on Mt. Tam.  It included a cantonment area with barracks, recreation facilities, mess hall, maintenance, etc, plus all of the operational facilities required by the station itself.  The Mid-peninsula team that has managed this project has done an remarkable job of restoring the landscape back to a natural state (pictures below)  The gigantic concrete box has been retained to explore how it can be preserved as a local landmark/artifact of the cold war.  

Having a team of local naturalists and restoration specialists who have accomplished a project so similar to what we have to do at West Peak is miraculous.  The National Parks Conservancy team, headed by Sharon Farrell, are unbelievably fortunate to be able to consult with Gina Coony, Meredith Manning and the rest of her team.  

On the way back home we were briefed on a preliminary version of the next steps for West Peak.  There’s a tremendous amount of thoughtfulness and sensitivity going into this process and although it isn’t fully formulated yet, I came away from the day with profound optimism.  The study period for how to accomplish the West Peak restoration will give everyone a chance to be heard and it will explore all possible options.  

Thanks to the Mid-peninsula team for hosting us, and… onward!

AuthorGary Yost