by Thomasin Grim
MMWD recently completed the Carson Falls Trail Restoration Project, a grant-funded effort focused on protecting the Foothill Yellow-legged Frog (Rana boylii) —a federal and state species of “special concern”—and establishing a safe hiking trail for watershed visitors that minimizes human impacts to sensitive habitat. Carson Falls is in the Pine Mountain area, one of the most remote areas of the district’s watershed lands. A new, safe trail route from Oat Hill Road down to Carson Falls was constructed, and several unsafe and “unofficial” trails were decommissioned and returned to their natural condition. The project also included a new footbridge across Little Carson Creek, stone stairways and exclusionary fencing, and discreet signage in order to help visitors understand the need to stay out of the creek and frog breeding pools.
In addition to protecting habitat and improving the visitor experience, another goal of the district is to reduce the number and variety of signs on the watershed. The Carson Falls project is the first example of a new prototype for watershed signage. This project included simple and informative trail markers, discreet educational signs in areas of particular sensitivity, and a multi-panel kiosk at the trailhead. The kiosk includes watershed and area maps, information about MMWD, the watershed, stewardship, and plants and animals particular to the Pine Mountain and Carson Falls area.
The Carson Falls project is a high-priority project in the district’s Mt. Tamalpais Watershed Road and Trail Management Plan, and we were fortunate to receive grant funding to finance this much-needed trail and habitat protection work. The project was completed with $211,000 in federal and state grant funding received through the Resources Agency’s River Parkways Program and the Recreational Trails Program, administered by California Department of Parks and Recreation.
If you decide to visit Carson Falls this spring, please keep dogs on leash and out of the creek and pools, as it is still breeding season for Foothill Yellow-legged Frogs.