Relentless rainstorms over the last month have wreaked havoc on Stevens Creek, causing trees to tumble into the creek bed and erosion that -- while too far away to affect the trail for now -- will require extensive repair work during the summer months.
And although the creek trail isn't facing another long-term closure, the city cut off trail access at the Highway 101 underpass in mid-February to clear out debris and again this week to fix underpass lights.
The worst of the wet and windy weather hit Mountain View last month, when a combination of high tide and 2 inches of rain over four days inundated both Permanente Creek and Stevens Creek, said Tim Youngberg, Mountain View's parks manager. He said flooding prompted the city to close off Permanente Creek Trail on Feb. 14 at the Amphitheatre underpass, while Stevens Creek Trail was closed at the Highway 101 underpass from Feb. 15 through 18.
The hope was to get Stevens Creek Trail opened earlier, Youngberg said, but the high water levels and debris made it unsafe for an extended period of time.
"The amount of rain throughout the continued four-day storm coupled with the high tide double-whammied us," he said.
An additional closure of the trail, again at the Highway 101 underpass, was scheduled for March 6 and 7 to repair trail lighting, according to city officials.
Following inspections by city staff, the Santa Clara Valley Water District is now monitoring multiple "erosion sites" along Stevens Creek caused by the recent storms. The most significant damage is just south of Middlefield Road, where a large portion of the bank -- along with a pile of tree branches and debris -- collapsed into the creek. Repair work is already in the design phase and will be included in the water district's maintenance projects this summer, according to Valley Water board member Gary Kremen.
A similar incident occurred in January 2017, when an even larger portion of the creek bank sloughed off and caused unsafe conditions on the trail between El Camino Real and Yuba Drive. The resulting trail closure lasted more than a year and a half as erosion worsened in the summer and the trail itself crumbled into the creek. A celebration of the reopening of the trail was held on Feb. 13, just days before the latest round of storms damaged the creek.
The good news is that the city isn't facing a repeat, Youngberg said. Unlike 2017, the trail is a comfortable distance away from where the cave-in occurred last month, leaving enough of a buffer that it does not present a safety hazard for those traveling on the trail, Youngberg said.
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