Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mount Diablo "road plan": my proposal

Diablo summit
Ron Brunner photo of parking lot at Diablo summit

I just saw this on the official Mount Diablo Parks page:

What is a Road and Trail Plan?
A Road and Trail Plan is a recommended management plan for the roads and trails within Mount Diablo State Park. At this time Mount Diablo State Park is developing a Road and Trail Plan for the park. The staff at Mount Diablo State Park is very excited to be able to a part of this process. This plan will be used as a long term guiding document and takes into consideration all of the elements of the park's values, goals and mission.

Key components in the Road and Trail plan are:
  1. Maximize visitor uses and experiences.
  2. Reduce potential safety conflicts.
  3. Minimize natural and cultural resource impacts.
  4. Coordinate with local and regional planning efforts.
  5. Provide access to surrounding public lands.
Public input An essential part of the Road and Trail Plan is creating an opportunity for the public to provide meaningful input. The park staff of Mount Diablo State Park will be setting up a series of public meetings during which time comments will be accepted. Times and dates of these meetings will be posted in the near future.
I'm glad they asked.

The problem with Mt Diablo is the summit road. It's a gorgeous 4.2 mile road from the junction to the summit. It carries moderate car traffic.

The mountain would be a much more serene place if it wasn't for all of these private cars driving up and down to the summit. It's simply silly. Instead I propose to the park service to close that road to cars. Run an electric shuttle bus every hour for those who can't hike or bike. The experience on the mountain for everyone would be improved. The only roar one should have to hear during a hike should be the roar of a swiftly flowing stream, not of an 8-cylinder engine, the only risk should be from mountain lions, not from getting hit by a speeding vehicle when crossing the road.

So how does this proposal compare with the priorities enumerated by the park?
  1. "Maximize visitor uses and experiences": unless those "experiences" involve driving on a dangerous mountain road, clearly the experiences of hiking and admiring the natural serenity of the hill are maximized if there's fewer cars driving.
  2. "Reduce potential safety conflicts": no brainer; big win.
  3. "Minimize natural and cultural resource impacts": no brainer, even bigger win. Few things have a more negative natural and cultural impact than private automobiles on winding, hilly roads.
  4. "Coordinate with local and regional planning efforts": neutral.

  5. "provide access to surrounding public lands.": that is adequately addressed with a shuttle bus or even, I would argue, maintained trails.

Indeed, a few years ago the road was closed due to repaving. Toward the end of the project I went around the barriers and rode it on my bike: the few sections of gravel were trivially passable and not a problem at all, especially since I saw them during the climb and so couldn't possibly be surprised by them on the subsequent descent. I wasn't the only scofflaw: there were a few groups of hikers and even other cyclists I saw during my trip. It was wonderful: no worries about cars speeding around corners, no loud engines to break the peace.

It's a very 1950's mentality that people access = car access. I'd like to hope we're able to move beyond that very flawed vision. It's unfortunate our parks, which should be leading in this movement, are actually well behind the standard set by our more enlightened cities.


Jim Schardt said...

"Instead I propose to the park service to close that road to cars... " I like it, but there is not an adequate parking area to adopt this idea. Thanks for bringing the road & trail plan to the attention of others.

djconnel said...

This is an issue. I rode up there yesterday and there's a series of parking lots at picnic areas along Summit Road. An option might be to close the road part-way up, to allow access to at least the lowest of these lots. The amount of parking, especially in the picnic area immediately below the summit, is enormous... a crumbling relic of a prior era.

I think the lesson learned from the LA "Carmageddon", various San Francisco Bay Bridge closures, the collapse of the Embarcadero Freeway, and similar incidents is that while there's always reasons cited while vehicle access can't possibly be curtailed, when unavoidable circumstances make the decisions people adapt fine and things end up better.

As I rode a flat-bed trailer was hauling a rather large SUV down the hill, obviously broken down either further up the climb or at the summit. Ironic that the SUV, with its roots in off-roading, couldn't even survive the climb I was doing on my bicycle.