Daly City’s unusual sand dunes that formed thousands of years ago are poised to receive a new park.
Located in the Hillside neighborhood, the park — spearheaded by conservationist organization San Bruno Mountain Watch — would bridge the gap between the San Bruno Mountain State and County Park on San Bruno Mountain and Daly City’s recently restored Hillside Park.
Although the project may include the addition of new hiking trails, it would not involve much new municipal park construction like a play structure or picnic tables. The initiative instead would conserve and restore open space already at the site.
The Daly City dunes are unusual in that they are a set of sand dunes with no beach in sight. Sitting on the western edge of San Bruno Mountain, the sand dunes formed when the sea extended into the area during the Pleistocene epoch, about 80,000 to 125,000 years ago.
An Ohlone shellmound is located at the site, and the dunes are also home to the endangered Lessingia germanorum plant, a food source for sensitive butterfly species.
Because much of the dunes have historically been on privately owned land, they have been the focus of controversy and negotiation in recent years.
In 2013, the nearby Hilldale School purchased a one-acre parcel of dune land, with the intention of developing it. That parcel remains in the school owner’s possession, and its future is unclear.
More recently, conservationists received a boon when commercial landlord Richard Haskins donated three and a half acres of dune land to San Mateo County. That land was annexed into the state-county park, thus permanently protecting it from being developed.
Mountain Watch spokesman Del Schembari said the new park would encompass about four acres of land directly above Hillside Park and adjacent to the county-owned dunes.
In addition to adding hiking trails, Schembari said his organization might ask Daly City officials to consider redeveloping the nearby Albert M. Teglia Community Center, so part of the facility could serve as an interpretive center for the new park and dunes.
The land in question is in need of major restoration and stewardship, which conservationists may recruit students from nearby schools to help with, Schembari said.
Much of the restoration would involve removing the invasive ice plants that have taken over the area, and replacing them with native plants.
Additionally, Schembari said, the park and nearby dunes could serve as outdoor classrooms, where the schools, in conjunction with Mountain Watch, could teach students about the ecology and history of the area.
Mountain Watch already has permission from the county to begin land stewardship operations, Schembari said, and the next step is to obtain authorization from the Daly City Council.
“As soon as we get permission, we’re going to be asking for grants,” Schembari said. The group will explore other sources of funding for the project as well.
Vice Mayor David Canepa said he hopes to introduce a resolution later this month or in June that would officially create the park and allow the project to move forward.
“Daly City and the other cities in the region are so dense that it’s become increasingly important for us to preserve these open spaces,” Canepa said. “Our residents need these opportunities to recreate and connect with nature.”