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Devils Slide Trail Project On Schedule To Open Next Spring

SAN MATEO (CBS SF) -- In just a few months, a notorious stretch of highway on the San Mateo County Coast known for its crashes, mudslides and spectacular ocean views will become the newest glittering jewel in the Peninsula county's park system.

The $2-million Devil's Slide Trail Project, which is converting a 1.3-mile stretch of state Highway 1 south of Pacifica into a recreational trail for bikers, hikers, birdwatchers and nature lovers, is on schedule to finish its transformation by March 15, San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley said.

The roadway was taken out of service after Caltrans opened the Tom Lantos Memorial Tunnels in March, ending years of weather-related road closures and fatal crashes that often isolated coastal communities to the south and earned Devil's Slide its name.

Horsley, whose district includes Devil's Slide, recently took a tour of the site hundreds of feet above the Pacific and said it is shaping up to be one of the most breathtaking trails on the California Coast.

"It's really going to be a fascinating park," he said. "You have the geology of the mountain, different types of birds, and you get so close to the cliff, you have a spectacular view."

The cliff face above the retired roadway is habitat for various birds of prey, including a resident Peregrine Falcon that nests near the southern end of the trail.

Gulls, cormorants, and a colony of Common Murres are among the seabirds that inhabit the cliffs below the trail and sea rocks just offshore.

Sequoia Audubon Society President Jennifer Rycenga said the creation of the park benefits the region's birds, who no longer have to breathe vehicle exhaust or be endangered by constant traffic.

The opening of the new coastal trail will also be a boon to the region's birdwatchers, who are gaining access to an undeveloped stretch of coastline that was formerly inaccessible to pedestrians, Rycenga said.

"We're really excited about it," she said. "Birdwatchers are always happy to gain access to an area that is relatively unspoiled."

Aside from bird watching, the trail offers a perfect lookout for observing the region's sea life, which includes dolphins, seals and migrating whales.

When it opens in March, the Devil's Slide trail will feature room for two six-foot bike lanes, a 12-foot path for pedestrians, and a series of placards explaining features of the area's environment and history.

The paths will be bordered by 3-foot concrete barriers, or "K-rails," and limited parking will be available on the northern and southern ends of the park.

Horsely said the Devil's Slide trail is going to be a sparkling addition to the county's park system, and hopes it will be visited by people from around the Bay Area and beyond.

"Driving through, you never really got that much of a view," Horsley said. "Now everyone will be able enjoy being that close to the California Coast."

Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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