February is a month on the edge — leaving winter and welcoming spring — offering lots to look forward to including a three-day weekend, Valentine’s Day and news from your open space preserves. Read on to discover what's new at Midpen, learn about ongoing projects, find out about upcoming virtual events and get public meeting updates.

Trilliums Bring Hope of Spring

In February, look for one of the first harbingers of spring: trilliums emerging in the weak winter light on the forest floor. True their name, they are a study in threes. Their three-petaled flowers appear in many shades from white to pink and deep red. Also called wake robins in deference to their early blooms, look for several species of trilliums in our local forests, including Pacific trillium and giant trillium. When you find them, know that spring is not far behind!

two plants with large green leaves and reddish flowers

two boys looking through a scope looking for birds

Join the Great Backyard Bird Count

Around the world, common and unusual birds will be observed and counted February 12-15 by adults and children alike. The Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society describes this global effort as a “bird count you can do in your slippers," simply watch birds for 15 minutes or more, at least once and report what you see using easy online tools! Count in your backyard, your neighborhood or put on your hiking shoes and get out to a preserve. Then you can share your observations and become part of this giant community science project!

Midpen is partnering with Sequoia Audubon Society, and San Mateo County Parks to offer a few Great Backyard Bird Count related activities and connect folks to the joy of birding. To take flight and get ready for your February birding adventures, plan to join us for the Wonderful World of Woodpeckers webinar on Saturday February 6!

Find out how to take part in the count

Sign on fence: If parking is full, preserve is full. Do not crowd.


Last month brought both much needed rain and warm sunny days. In any kind of weather, it's always best to check trail conditions and preserve pages before leaving home. Some Midpen trails close to bicycle and/or equestrian use during the rainy season to help keep the trails in good shape. And beautiful days often bring many visitors out to the preserves—so many that we've needed to close parking lots for a few hours at some of our busiest preserves. Conditions can change without notice, so have an alternate plan for a different preserve or trail when you head outside!

Review these tips for finding a trail less traveled

It’s Official! Oljon Trail Dedicated as New Segment of Bay Area Ridge Trail

Mountain bikers, hikers and equestrians enjoy the 1.7-mile, multiuse Oljon Trail that winds playfully along a ridgeline of mixed redwood and tanoak forest at El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve. The trail allows visitors to explore many loop route options without having to travel along Skyline Boulevard, making for a safer, more pleasant experience. Thanks in part to California State Coastal Conservancy-Ridge Trail partner grants that helped fund construction, the Oljon Trail is now officially dedicated as a new Bay Area Ridge Trail segment. This new Ridge Trail route connects to Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve in the north and could provide a future connection through La Honda Creek Preserve to the south. The construction of the Oljon Trail and related Watershed Protection Program were also funded thanks to local voters passing Measure AA.  

Get a taste for the Oljon Trail in this short video from our partner, The Bay Area Ridge Trail Council.

woman in pond wearing waders and holding a newtCelebrating Women in Science at Midpen

February 11 is International Day of Women and Girls in Science and that gives us an opportunity to recognize  the many women scientists on our staff who help us accomplish our mission. They protect rare local wildlife, restore native plant communities and creeks, manage invasive plants, lead volunteer stewardship projects, combat climate change, design maps to improve decision-making and MUCH more! We appreciate them and ALL women and girls in science out there who dedicate themselves to understanding and protecting the natural world that supports us all.


Although often small in size and overlooked, fungi play an important role in the ecosystem and winter is the perfect time to learn about them in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Join Interpretive Specialist Ellen Tjosvold and Environmental Education Specialist Nina Vuoso to explore fungus in winter at Alpine Pond in Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve. They are joined by two fungus enthusiasts, Open Space Technician Jessica Vizena and Docent Naturalist Chris MacIntosh, who share their fascination with one of the season’s popular natural attractions—mushrooms!

Watch the video to discover mushrooms, learn about the Wood Wide Web and more!

Project Updates

Shaded Fuel Break Work Begins

Midpen is creating 2.5 miles of new shaded fuel break at Coal Creek Open Space Preserve. Shaded fuel breaks remove ladder fuels and reduce vegetation density while maintaining as much tree canopy as possible to slow and reduce the intensity of potential wildland fire and help protect public safety in an ecologically sensitive manner. A California Conservation Corps crew is performing this work thanks to a Proposition 68 grant and funds provided by Midpen. This is a high priority fuel reduction project in Cal Fire’s Community Wildfire Protection Plan which was created with public input. Work is scheduled to begin in February and will run through May 2021.

Learn more and get trail condition updates

Wildland Fire Resiliency Program: Two Ways to Comment 

We are continuing our essential wildland fire prevention and preparation work. This includes analyzing and identifying ways to reduce potential environmental impacts from our newly developed Wildland Fire Resiliency Program which is aimed at proactively expanding Midpen’s ecologically sensitive vegetation management to establish healthy ecosystems, reduce wildland fire risk and facilitate fire suppression.

Review and comment on the environmental analysis in the draft report by March 1, 2021. You can also participate in and submit comments at a virtual public hearing on this topic February 25 at 5 p.m. with the Midpen board of directors.

Rancho San Antonio Multimodal Access Study

Over the past year, Midpen has explored and evaluated non-motorized mobility, transit options and parking alternatives for Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve and County Park to encourage visitors to opt for greener forms of transportation and reduce parking demand and traffic. A draft strategies report is complete and the final report will be presented to the board of directors for review and approval in the next few months. The report compiles information and research and proposes strategies to improve visitor accessibility and expand transportation choices that align with Midpen’s mission.

Find out more about the study

Free Virtual Events

The Wonderful World of Woodpeckers
Saturday, February 6 at 10 a.m. 

Learn about the woodpeckers of San Mateo County, where they are found and the exciting lives they lead! Following the presentation led by Alvaro Jaramillo, ornithologist and founder of Alvaro’s Adventures, Midpen biologist Karine Tokatlian will share information about habitat values for woodpeckers on Midpen preserves and where you might be most likely to hear or see a pileated woodpecker. Sponsored with Sequoia Audubon Society and San Mateo County Parks.

Register to attend

Lunch & Learn: Winter at Monte Bello Preserve
Thursday, February 18, noon to 1 p.m.

Join Bay Area Older Adults and Midpen for an interactive educational tour of Monte Bello Preserve. Learn about amphibians, reptiles and mushrooms found at this preserve. Enjoy a 4-mile virtual walk up the steep, forested White Oak Trail in search of birds and mushrooms, reaching an open grassland for views of Black Mountain. Then we head back downhill along the Stevens Creek Nature Trail to find amphibians that make their home by the creek. There will be time for Q&A at the end of the presentation.

Register to attend

Visit openspace.org/calendar for a complete schedule of events.

Or visit openspace.org/virtual-nature for more engaging activities to help you explore nature close to home.

Board Meeting Updates

Conservation Grazing Management Policy Amendments
Conservation grazing is one of many land management tools Midpen uses to achieve conservation goals such as protecting biodiversity and enhancing habitat. Join the Midpen board of directors as they review, discuss and consider approving proposed amendments to Midpen’s conservation grazing management policy at their February 10 meeting.Learn more. 

Expanded Parking at Sierra Azul Postponed
Last month the board voted to defer the development of a parking lot in the northern area of Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve until the completion of a population and mortality study for the California and rough-skinned newts in the area. The study could influence the project’s scope, schedule and budget. Learn more.

New Board Officers for 2021
The new year brings a new slate of board officers. Leading the Midpen board of directors in 2021 are Board President Curt Riffle, Board Vice President Zoe Kersteen-Tucker, Board Secretary Larry Hassett and Board Treasurer Yoriko Kishimoto. Meet the board.

Upcoming Public Meetings

  • February 8: Board of Directors - Board Retreat
  • February 10:  Board of Directors 
  • February 24: Board of Directors
  • February 25: Board of Directors - Study Session
  • February 25:  Measure AA Bond Oversight Committee

In accordance with public health shelter-at-home orders, all Midpen board meetings will be held via Teleconference ONLY. The meetings may be viewed online. There is also a dial in number to listen by phone. Links are included in the meeting agendas posted online 72 hours before the meeting.

Members of the public may provide written comments by submitting a public comment form.