San Bruno land set aside: Site was once used as Native American burial grounds

Publisher: San Francisco Examiner
Reporter: Mary Albert

The Bay Area's oldest bones can rest easy now that San Mateo County has acquired almost 26 acres of archeologically and environmentally valuable land.

On Thursday, the county purchased the open space because it is home to Native American burial grounds dating back to 3,200 B.C. as well as several federally recognized endangered species, according to national conservationist organization The Trust for Public Land, which coordinated the effort.

The acquisition ends years of efforts by environmental, political and preservation groups to save the eastern side of San Bruno Mountain, located between U.S. Highway 101 and San Bruno Mountain State and County Park, from commercial development by San Francisco-based Myers Development Company.

Now, the land where endangered Mission Blue and Callippe Silverspot butterflies flutter and Slipskin Ohlone peoples lived continuously for 5,000 years will be protected by San Bruno Mountain State and County Park.

"This is a great achievement for the county," said Mark Church, president of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. "It is a huge step forward to protect the habitat of San Bruno Mountain."

Also, he said, the acquisition sets a "good precedent" for ongoing efforts to expand open space because it is the first time a comprehensive conservation plan has been implemented anywhere in the United States.

Original plans called for building three hotels and an office tower, according to The Trust.

But groups like San Bruno Mountain Watch had resisted development as early as the 1960s, said Executive Director David Schooley. In 1999, they took their objections to Myers' plans to court.

"This has been 30 years of effort to protect this area," said Schooley. "This is the final move."

Purchasing the property -- valued at $1,285,000 -- would not have been possible without funds from several sources. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service contributed about $860,000 of federal dollars through "section six" funding, said Assistant Field Supervisor Al Donner.

In addition, the San Francisco Foundation and Pajaro Valley Ohlone Indian Council each contributed $50,000, and the Caltrans Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Fund chipped in $325,000, according to The Trust.

Staff Writer Justin Nyberg contributed to this report.