Hawthorns Public Access Working Group

The Hawthorns Area of Windy Hill Open Space Preserve is a 79-acre property located within the Town of Portola Valley and owned by the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (Midpen). The property is currently closed to the public.

On June 28th 2023, Hawthorns Area Public Access Working Group was officially formed. The Midpen Board of Directors appointed members to serve on the Hawthorns Area Public Access Working Group. Working group members will collaborate with Midpen staff, District Ward Stakeholders, and elected official liaisons on a plan to introduce ecologically sensitive public access to the site in a manner consistent with Midpen vision and goals. All Public Access Working Group meetings are open to the public. Please click on the "Timeline" link below to access the meeting schedule.

The Working Group will evaluate the following public access components:  

  • Parking area and driveway location(s)  
  • Trailhead location(s) and internal trail system  
  • Trail connections with surrounding Town trails and pathways  
  • Opportunities for regional trail connections 
  • Proposed trail uses within the Hawthorns Area  
Public Access, Education, and Outreach
Public Access

Meet the Hawthorns Public Access Working Group


Bryna Chang

Bryna Chang, Interest Area Representative 

Bryna grew up in Los Altos Hills and attended Palo Alto schools.  She has lived within about 6 miles of the Hawthorns Area for the last 44 years and now lives in Palo Alto.  Her son has just started attending Woodside Priory School, so she travels past the Hawthorns Area almost every day and hikes in Windy Hill on a weekly basis.   

Tyler Feld

Tyler Feld, Interest Area Representative 

Tyler grew up in Southern California with outdoor experiences walking to school through neighborhood open spaces. This prompted a degree from UC Santa Cruz in Environmental Studies. Following his degree, he spent five years as an environmental and outdoor educator, where he connected youth with ecologies throughout Northern California. Following the pandemic, he utilized his passion for ecology and connecting communities to nature to begin working in natural resources. He currently works with Grassroots Ecology engaging local communities in habitat restoration at various parks and open spaces around Silicon Valley. 

Charlie Krenz

Charles Krenz, Interest Area Representative

Charlie is 24-year resident of unincorporated Portola Valley and unabashed nature lover. As a young man, he spent his summers hiking in the Sierras. Locally, he’s a birder, native plant enthusiast and passionate mountain biker. As a volunteer he’s produced more than a few videos on topics related to local open space areas: Stories of Mt Umunhum,  The Alpine Road Story, Horse + Bike .

Rachel Oslund

Rachel Oslund, Interest Area Representative

Rachel grew up in San Carlos as an avid hiker, camper, and outdoors person. She returned to the Bay Area after college to attend graduate school at San Jose State University and earned a master’s degree in education. She is now a Montessori educator focusing on elementary and secondary students. Her experiences taking students into nature have created a passion for making sure outdoor spaces are not only accessible to all, but also that people understand what makes these spaces so special. She is looking forward to working with the local communities to create something that will both be treasured by the people while still being a place for flora and fauna to grow and thrive. 

David Smernoff

David Smernoff, Interest Area Representative

David has lived in Los Trancos Woods for 25 years and frequents the local trail systems on foot with his family, friends and multiple generations of dogs, and via mountain bike. He often stops and pulls non-native plants during hikes and loves taking pictures of our beautiful native plants. He co-founded the Arastradero Preserve Stewardship Project in 1996 which grew into the Acterra Stewardship program and in 2017 was the founding board president of Grassroots Ecology as it spun out of Acterra.

Karen Vantra

Karen Vahtra, Interest Area Representative

Karen has lived in the Bay Area her entire life and 20 years in the town of Portola Valley.  A lifelong explorer, she has hiked at almost every preserve in the district.  For the last 10 years she has volunteered in a tax program run through the IRS and the United Way for low-income people as a Tax Preparer and a Site Coordinator. 

Scott Mosher

Scott Mosher, Ward 1 (Gleason) Stakeholder  

Scott Mosher consults with Veregy Consulting to help electric utilities evaluate, pilot and deploy smart grid technologies. Previously, he was Vice President of Anililx, Inc., a telecommunications expense management company he co-founded in 1999. Earlier in his career he worked throughout California in finance, high tech consulting and telecommunications at Sybase, Andersen Consulting and FSG (Financial Strategies Group). 

Vivian Neou

Vivian Neou , Ward 2 (Kishimoto) Stakeholder  

Vivian Neou is currently a Vice President of California Native Plant Society Board of Directors. Professionally, she is a retired software executive. She became interested in native plants after she retired and started hiking. That led her to volunteer at the CNPS SCV Nursery, where she became the nursery manager. She's a past president of the Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the California Native Plant Society and is active in many other roles in the chapter. Vivian enjoys leading hikes for Midpeninsula Open Space District, Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve and Edgewood Park & Natural Preserve. 

Wilma Wool

Wilma (Willie) Wool, Ward 3 (Cyr) Stakeholder  

Willie has lived on the SF Peninsula for over 50 years.  She went to college here, raised a family, and taught high school.  For the last 25 years, she has hiked the over 100 parks that are within one hour from here once and often twice a week logging 5 to 15 miles per week first as a teacher for Santa Clara Unified Adult Education then for Fremont Union High Adult and Community Education. 40-50 students register for her Hike for Health class year-round.  Willie is also a docent for the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority. 

Sandy Sommer

Sandy Sommer, Ward 4 (Riffle) Stakeholder  

Sandy is a landscape planner with broad vision as well as an in‐depth understanding of public access planning, stewardship, and conservation real estate in the public and private sectors. Between 1999 and 2014, Sandy worked at the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. She has served on the boards of directors of several non‐profit organizations, as an appointed public official, and in community service groups, including the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council and Squaw Valley National Ski Patrol. Her interests include hiking, mountain biking, environmental protection, regional trails, as well as equitable access to the outdoors. She has visited almost all the preserves and has an affinity for Russian Ridge. 

Jeff Greenfield

Jeff Greenfield, Ward 5 (Holman) Stakeholder  

Jeff is currently serving on the City of Palo Alto’s Parks and Recreation Commission as Chair. He has served as Chair twice and is about to begin his 7th year on the Commission. He has also served on the Canopy Advisory Board since 2017. There is interest due to the Hawthorns Area’s proximity and potential connection to Foothills Nature Preserve and Pearson - Arastradero Preserve. 

Helen Quinn

Helen Quinn, Ward 6 (MacNiven) Stakeholder  

Helen Quinn has been a resident of Portola Valley for over 45 years. She and her husband have been active supporters of the work of POST, Green Foothills, and Sempervirens for many years. She is well aware of the value of the regional network of open space preserves. She served for ten years in the 70’s and 80’s on the Portola Valley Town Trails committee and walks the trails in the area frequently to this day.  She is a docent and leads hikes for the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve at Stanford and for Green Foothills outings to Santa Clara Valley Open Space preserves.  

Kerry De Benedetti

Kerry De Benedetti, Ward 7 (Kersteen-Tucker) Stakeholder  

Kerry has been a resident of Woodside area for over 50 years and have enjoyed the local trails on horseback and on foot.  

Living close to Thornewood, she paid attention to the planning of the trail project there. In conjunction with serving a short term on the Town of Woodside’s Open Space Committee, she attended a Land Trust Alliance Workshop on Conservation Easements. After finishing the UC Master Gardener program, she volunteered at the Cascade Ranch on the native plant propagation project with the Amuh Mutsun Land Trust.  

Photo of board member Margaret MacNiven

Margaret MacNiven, Board Director, Ward 6 Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District 

Margaret has been on the Midpen Board of Directors since January 1st, 2023.  She represents Ward 6 which includes Portola Valley.  She has lived on Long Ridge off Skyline Boulevard for 45 years and is familiar with the District’s thoughtful and thorough outreach program when considering public access on their lands. 

Sarah Wernikoff

Sarah Wernikoff, Vice Mayor, Councilmember, Town of Portola Valley 

Sarah was elected to the Portola Valley Town Council in November 2020 and has served as Vice Mayor since December 2021.  Sarah has over ten years’ experience as a non-profit board trustee, including in leadership positions as Chair of the Board of the Lumind IDSC Foundation, Co-Chair of the Portola Valley School Foundation Endowment, Portola Valley School District PTO President, and most recently as Chair of the Board of Pals Programs and Branch Services, organizations that support individuals with disabilities. 

Cathy Garrett

Cathy Garrett, Facilitator, PGAdesign, Inc. 

Cathy Garrett is an award-winning landscape architect and president of PGAdesign with 39 years of experience in design and project management. Driven by a deep curiosity, she relishes understanding a place’s context—including its history, form, natural qualities, and human presence—to imbue her designs. She values creating spaces that draw people in and become places that build community resilience and hold importance in people’s lives. Open space projects comprise a robust array of Cathy’s myriad projects. She has prepared master plans, trailhead and trail plans, and cultural resource assessments for many preserves and parks. Since 2009, a number of these have been collaborations with MROSD. 

Hawthorns Area Public Access Working Group Meeting Schedule  

(Please be sure to check back often as the schedule is subject to change, pending confirmation from working group members

July 27, 2023 

6:00 - 9:00 p.m.

Meeting 1: Kickoff 

Establish Working Group roles, goals, workplan, schedule, and operating procedures.

(AgendaAgenda Packet)

August 26, 2023 

9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Meeting 2: Site visit 

Conduct in-person site tour and review existing site conditions. RSVPs will be requested for planning logistics.

(Agenda, Agenda Packet)

October 26, 2023 

6:00 - 9:00 p.m.

Meeting 3: Design discussion 

Discuss parking and driveway options, as well as internal connections, trailheads, trail uses, and local and regional connectivity opportunities. Select two co-chairs.

December 16, 2023 

9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Meeting 4: Site visit to confirm design 

Site visit to confirm trail and parking design. Review revised options and provide input on draft trail and parking alternatives. RSVPs will be requested for planning logistics. Check back for link when RSVP registration opens.

January 18, 2024 

6:00 - 9:00 p.m.

Meeting 4b: Continuation of Meeting 4 (if needed)  

Review revised options and provide input on draft trail and parking alternatives.

February 29, 2024 

6:00 - 9:00 p.m.

Meeting 5: Confirm revised design 

Confirm revised trail and parking alternatives to forward to the District’s PNR and subsequently to Board for consideration.

March 21, 2024 

6:00 - 9:00 p.m.

Meeting 5b: Continuation of Meeting 5 (if needed) 

Confirm revised trail and parking alternatives to forward to the District’s PNR and subsequently to Board for consideration.