On March 8th of last year, in the middle of a stormy night, a massive landslide occurred near the town Pescadero, CA. The slide ripped over 4,000 cubic yards of sediment into Butano Creek.

Maybe 4,000 cubic yards doesn’t sound like a lot?

Let me put that in perspective for you. One cubic yard of topsoil bought from your local garden supply store weighs approximately 1.3 tons or 2,600 lbs. So this landslide weighed more than 8 million pounds.

This thing was massive!

The slide occurred on a portion of our Cloverdale Coastal Ranches, a 6,873-acre property we protected in 1997. It left a huge gully and effectively created a new tributary to Butano Creek that was ripping soil from the stream’s bank, clouding the creek and threatening habitat for species at risk like steelhead trout and California red-legged frog.

And it was growing, too. As the gully deepened it was slowly advancing toward nearby Cloverdale Road including a bridge over Butano Creek, one of the main thoroughfares for the town of Pescadero.

A view from the morning after the massive landslide with Cloverdale Road in the background. This slide ripped over 4,000 cubic yards of soil into Butano Creek (roughly 8 million pounds). Photo by Tim Best

Our stewardship team acted fast to protect the creek and the road. With a little elbow grease, they put temporary structures in place to slow the erosion. It was nothing fancy, but enough to hold through the winter and save the road.

The gully needed to be properly repaired or it would continue to erode and, eventually, take out a portion of the road and bridge.  And this needed to happen before the start of this past winter season, which is not a lot time for a major construction project with complex environmental considerations.

The clock was ticking.


The design we chose was selected because it was the best for moving water through the gully without causing further erosion and the implementation would have the lowest impact on threatened wildlife.

I was surprised how many regulatory agencies are involved with project like this. Talk about a laundry list!

With the help of the San Mateo Resource Conservation District, we consulted San Mateo County, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

All of these agencies were in agreement that the plan we had selected was the most appropriate solution to this problem. With their blessing, we got to work in mid-October of last year.

A view of the gully almost fully repaired. The repairs are holding well through this surprisingly wet winter. Photo by Tim Best

TKO General Engineering, a local outfit from La Honda, was selected to carry out our plans. Over the course of the next two months they worked between weather windows to reshape the gully walls, making the slope to the creek more gradual and installed a drainage system that would move and filter water through the gully.

Today, it is a sight to see and is faring well with this year’s above average rainfalls.

Talking with the project’s manager Laura O’Leary, POST’s Senior Stewardship Project Manager, it was clear that this was a huge win for our stewardship team. Laura attributed the success to the relationships we’ve built with our partners in conservation. She put it best when she said,

“this project would not have happened without support from the San Mateo Resource Conservation District (RCD) and the leadership of Supervisor Don Horsley.

The RCD helped us navigate the permitting process and the County, thanks to Supervisor Horsely, helped pay for half of the project to save the County’s road”

I’m reminded now every time I pass this spot on Cloverdale Road just what it takes to be good stewards of the land – to protect and care for these special open spaces. What’s the lesson for me in this story? Partners are essential to our work.


The Resource Conservation District in San Mateo County is a non-regulatory special district to help people protect, conserve, and restore natural resources through information, education, and technical assistance programs. For 75 years, the RCD has provided assistance to landowners wishing to best manage their natural resources and has been a focal point for local resource conservation and assistance to agriculture. Learn more on their website!

Video by Tim Best

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About Post

Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 87,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more

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