The Umunhum Conservancy is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the preservation and restoration of Mt. Umunhum and its historic Radar Tower.
The summit of Mt. Umunhum is now open! For the first time the public can see the magnificent views and experience the mountain’s history in person.
Without the efforts of the Umunhum Conservancy and our amazing supporters the historic Radar Tower atop Mt. Umunhum would have been demolished. Thanks to your support the Tower is recognized as historic by Santa Clara County, and the Tower’s owner has agreed not to demolish it for now.
While the Tower is still standing, it has not yet been preserved. It needs work in order to keep it from degrading over time. Our goal is to insure that the work needed to truly preserve the Tower is performed in a timely manner and to an appropriate standard.
Mt. Umunhum and the Radar Tower are owned by the MidPeninsula Regional Open Space District (MidPen). In the Spring of 2017 MidPen agreed to fund and perform an engineering assessment of the Tower to determine what specific repairs it needs. This assessment is the necessary first step towards repairing and truly preserving the Tower. That assessment is due in late 2017.
Once the specific work that needs to be done is identified, naturally that work should be performed. The most urgent repairs should be performed first. The goal of such repairs should be to prevent further future damage to the tower (water intrusion through cracks and openings, etc), to resolve any necessary safety concerns, and to address aesthetic issues caused by MidPen’s interim repairs. The tower would remain sealed and the interior would remain off limits to visitors.
Whether MidPen will agree to perform the necessary repairs in a timely manner is not yet clear. Whether MidPen will pay for those repairs is also unclear.
The Umunhum Conservancy awaits the results of the engineering study and will work with MidPen to make sure that the most urgent repairs are performed as soon as possible.
Donations made to the Umunhum Conservancy will be used to help us make sure that those repairs are performed in a timely and appropriate manner. Thank you very much to everyone for your support!
Spared for now…
…but not yet preserved.
We’re not done!
Thanks for your support!
December 2017 Update
The MidPeninsula Regional Open Space District (MidPen) is about to adopt a proposal which would appear to prohibit any future use of the historic Radar Tower atop Mt. Umunhum. This does not seem to endanger the Tower, and would not prevent future work to truly preserve it. But the Tower could never be used “for permanent or occupied uses”.
The Umunhum Conservancy has taken no position in favor or against this proposal, but we want to let you know about it, so you can provide timely feedback to MidPen if you are so inclined.
At their December 13th board meeting, MidPen will consider entering into a conservation easement with the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. This agreement will grant the tribe certain rights to the summit of Mt. Umunhum, including the ability to host various tribal ceremonies and to perform a cultural resource survey. However, the agreement would also apparently forever prohibit MidPen or the Tribe from using the Tower “for permanent or occupied purposes”.
Future Uses of the Radar Tower
MidPen’s management has made it clear that they are not willing to consider any uses of the interior of the Tower at this time. Over the years community members have suggested that it would make an excellent museum, or visitor’s center, or could possibly serve some other purpose in the future. However, since MidPen is unwilling to consider such uses at this point any such use is unlikely to happen any time soon.
The Umunhum Conservancy’s mission is to preserve and protect the historic Radar Tower. We have no opinion on whether the Tower should be used as a museum or for any other purpose in the future, and we accept that any such use would be far in the future.
However, recognizing that the Tower will be sealed for now doesn’t mean that future generations should be prohibited from opening it. It is a right and honorable thing for MidPen to grant the Amah Mutsun some rights to the mountain is a right and honorable thing to do. But restricting itself from ever using the Tower doesn’t seem necessary for that purpose. Should future generations be able to make their own decisions, or should future use be forever forbidden today?
The Umunhum Conservancy has taken no position on this topic. If you would like to let MidPen know your opinions on this, we encourage you to let them know before their December 13 meeting.
Information about upcoming MidPen board meetings: https://www.openspace.org/about-us/board-meetings
Contacting MidPen: https://www.openspace.org/contact-us
Current Status of the Radar Tower
MidPen has agreed that the Tower will be retained in a sealed state. However, it has not yet been either sealed or preserved. It is not watertight and is currently not painted. Its concrete structure was never designed to be left unprotected from the elements as it currently is.
The next step in truly preserving the Tower is an engineering assessment of it to determine what specific repairs it requires. MidPen has previously indicated that it would perform that assessment in their 2017-2018 fiscal year. They allocated funds for the assessment in their budget, but to date have not yet hired an engineer to perform the assessment.
Once that assessment is complete the next step will be to determine which repairs must be performed, when, and who will pay for them.
In the meantime apparently a few flakes of lead paint have been observed near the Tower, despite the toxic cleanup that was performed by MidPen in 2012. Until that issue is resolved MidPen has closed some trails and walkways to keep visitors from approaching the Tower. The Conservancy expects that MidPen will finish the toxic abatement as soon as possible and will quickly reopen those walkways. We do not currently know MidPen’s plans or schedule for this.
Current Status of the Umunhum Conservancy
The Umunhum Conservancy was founded in 2012 to preserve and protect the historic Radar Tower. We are proud to have secured official historic status for the Tower, which resulted in MidPen agreeing to retain it.
We await the engineering assessment that MidPen committed to perform in 2016. We expect that MidPen will perform that assessment this year as they previously agreed and has they budgeted.
Once that assessment is performed we expect that the Conservancy will have a role in funding some of those tower repairs. While primary responsibility for maintaining the Tower lies with MidPen, there are likely to be opportunities for the Conservancy to:
- Accelerate the implementation of repairs that we consider more urgent than MidPen does, and/or to
- Provide funding to cause repairs to be done to a higher standard than MidPen would fund themselves
However, until MidPen completes the assessment we neither know how much money is needed (if any), nor specifically what that money would be used for.
The Umunhum Conservancy is a non-profit corporation; donations are tax deductible to the full extent of the law. Donations will ultimately be used to help preserve the Tower. To donate please visit our website, www.umunhumconservancy.org.
Thank you for your continued support!
…Sam Drake / President / Umunhum Conservancy
November 2017 Update
MidPen has temporarily closed the area of Mt. Umunhum around the Radar Tower. Apparently flakes of lead based paint blew off of the Tower in a recent windstorm. While lead based paint is indeed a hazard, it is certainly not a crisis. Any building in the US built before 1978 was painted with lead based paint.
MidPen performed work many years ago to remove hazardous materials like lead and asbestos from Mt. Umunhum. Apparently they missed some. We expect that MidPen will quickly perform necessary abatement work and will reopen the summit to the public soon.
Support from Local Leaders
Numerous local political figures and other community leaders support preserving the Radar Tower atop Mt. Umunhum. Check out the list, and thank them for their support!