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Grand jury report raises questions over safety at new Devil's Slide Trail

A grand jury report released Tuesday is raising questions about potential risks of the new Devil's Slide Trail in Pacifica.
A grand jury report is raising questions about potential risks of the new Devil's Slide Trail in Pacifica, particularly for children.

The trail opened in March after the Tom Lantos tunnel reconfigured Highway 1.

Officials are concerned over the easy access to closed-off Bunker Hill and they think somebody could fall off the cliff, so they want a catch net installed.

The former stretch of Highway 1 hovers like a ribbon between rocky coast and wind-blown sea. Bonnie Stellingwerf has childhood memories of slinging along the curves in her father's Chevy. Now, she and her husband come back to walk Devil's Slide Trail with their friends. "The trail's great, they've done a beautiful job here."

The 1.3 mile trail opened in March, but last July a San Mateo resident filed a complaint about safety, launching a year-long grand jury investigation.

The grand jury report released Tuesday highlights three key concerns, including a lack of hardline or cellphone service in case of an emergency.

"When this was a road it was hard to get cell service through here, but that's part of nature," Half Moon Bay resident Dave Karlin said.

Karlin is also not concerned about the old guard rails. The grand jury warned a small child could crawl through them, then tumble down the cliff. "I think it's safe. I think there wouldn't be a problem, it would be no different if you were walking at Yosemite or around Lake Tahoe. You have to know what you're doing and you have to keep an eye on your kids."

The trail is open to walkers, bikers and horseback riders. But the grand jury wants a study about prohibiting horses from the trail by the end of the year, saying when fog makes the pavement wet, the horses could slip.

Pacifica resident Bonnie Stellingwerf doesn't agree. "I think that's crazy, I think it's very safe out here."

The San Mateo County Parks Department oversees the trail. The original trail budget does not include money for these studies or changes, but the parks director told ABC7 News she plans to meet with a phone company Thursday to see what it would take to install a hardline for emergencies.
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