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Cold War-Era Site Shuts Down Over Lead And Asbestos Concerns

LOS GATOS (KPIX 5) -- A Cold War-era spy station atop Mount Umunhum recently reopened to the public for the first time in years.

But now, the landmark is suddenly shut down again. This time, the closure is because of lead concerns.

Thousands of hikers and bicyclists flocked to Mount Umunhum when it reopened in September 2017, after being off-limits to the public for decades.

But one of the main attractions -- the mysterious cube-shaped building, a remnant of the Cold War-era radar tower that once sat atop the summit -- is closed once again after peeling paint was noticed flaking off the building.

The cube was used to keep an eye on enemies in the sky and was decommissioned in 1980.

Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District general manager Ana Ruiz said, "Out of an abundance of caution, we tested those and they did come back containing some lead paint and even a trace of asbestos."

The area around the cube has been fenced off and the cleanup is set to begin as early as next week.

"There was actually abatement work done. In 2011, the Army Corp of Engineers did an abatement job on the radar tower," Ruiz said.

The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District estimates roughly 1,400 cars, and between 4,000 to 5,000 people visit the park each week.

Valentin Lopez, the chairman of the Amah Mutsun Native American tribe said, "We requested that there be a spiritual circle there, a place for ceremony…a place we can pray...."

Lopez worked with the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District to create a special, ceremonial space at the summit, but has been forced to cancel several upcoming events until the cleanup is complete.

Rruiz said, "We've got to put safety first…if the paint deteriorates to the point where it turns into dust that could also be a concern."

The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District estimates the cleanup will take two to three months to complete. They hope to have the summit completely reopened by June.


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