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.

Conservation Easement

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.


The proposal:

Information about upcoming MidPen board meetings:

Contacting MidPen:

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,

Thank you for your continued support!


…Sam Drake / President / Umunhum Conservancy