Mount Umunhum / by John Q Ware

WARE and the visionary landscape architects at Restoration Design Group (RDG) are currently working on the construction of a trailhead picnic area, a turnaround shelter, and a summit shelter/visitor center on Mount Umunhum. The client is the Midpensinula Regional Open Space District (MROSD).

 First site visit.

First site visit.

Mount Umunhum is one of the highest peaks in the Santa Cruz Mountains and forms the scenic backdrop to San Jose and Los Gatos. It has served a number of functions throughout history. The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band cites Mount Umunhum as the location of their creation story, which occurred 15,000 years ago. “Umunhum” is an Ohlone term meaning “resting place of the hummingbird;” the hummingbird is a central figure in their creation story and “Mount Umunhum is sacred ground to all Ohlone people….” says Amah Mutsun Tribal Chairman Valentin Lopez. A robust ceremonial space has been designed and will be built for the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band’s use at the top of the summit. 

Amazing view from the summit.

From 1957 to 1979, the summit was the site of the former Almaden Air Force Station.  In 1980, the base was decommissioned and the summit was closed entirely.  In 2009, Midpen received federal funding to clean up the site and provide public access to Mount Umunhum and its spectacular panoramic vistas.

  Opposite the ceremonial grounds resides the 72 foot tall decommissioned U.S. military radar tower. 

Opposite the ceremonial grounds resides the 72 foot tall decommissioned U.S. military radar tower. 

The restored Summit will provide a gathering point for all sorts of visitors: for students interested in the natural restoration project, hiking enthusiasts, and equestrians. Trails wind throughout the park and a road to the top will likely become a cyclist’s landmark in the Bay Area.

The project requires a delicate and sensitive touch, historically, ecologically, and aesthetically. In attempts to create an honest look and take a step back from rivaling the natural beauty of the site, WARE investigated the creation of a “caretaker” building aesthetic. The goal was to create structures that wouldn’t dominate the natural beauty of the site, yet were durable enough to withstand peak winds of 150 mph. This eventually led to the creation of our own WPA styling, the creation of our own park-structure vocabulary. Our approach was influenced by the Civilian Corps projects from the New Deal era. WARE hopes that the resultant buildings express a new park-structure language that pays homage to current and future design sensibilities.

Some of these features include: standing seam metal roofs (hurricane grade!), flush cor-ten and natural stone veneer detailing, steel wide flange columns with custom column heads (our take on a classical order), sand-blast finished smooth concrete, and vertical metal bar guardrails and handrails.

Read more about the Mount Umunhum Summit Project on the MROSD website.

September 28, 2016 Update:

 The shelter foundation has been excavated.

The shelter foundation has been excavated.

October 10, 2016 Update:

 Work continues after the Loma fires

Work continues after the Loma fires

 November 23rd, 2016

November 23rd, 2016