Edgewood County Park and Natural Preserve is famous in the greater San Francisco Bay Area as the place to see fields of spring wildflowers. But the importance and meaning of the preserve to the community go beyond viewing pretty flowers.
An unusual and harmonious concentration of ecological zones, Edgewood’s most important feature is its 160 acres of serpentine soils. Low in calcium and nitrogen, but high in magnesium and heavy metals, serpentinite is toxic to most plants. Over millennia, however, certain plants and animals have adapted to it.
Because most species brought in with European settlement cannot live in serpentine soil, such areas form natural preserves of native plants and the animals that depend on them. Any time of year, Edgewood can show how our area looked before European settlement. Edgewood can be thought of as a living museum with a window to California’s past.
Flora and Fauna
Despite its relatively small size as a protected wilderness area—only 467 acres—Edgewood offers a surprising amount of biotic diversity. Its grasslands, chaparral, coastal scrub regions, foothill woodlands, and even year-round seeps and springs support over 500 distinct plant species, three of which are federally listed as endangered or threatened. In addition, the fragile Bay Checkerspot Butterfly, also a threatened species, makes its home in the unique habitat afforded by the serpentine grasslands. The various plant communities also provide habitat for frogs, lizards, foxes, coyote, bobcat, raccoon, deer, and over 80 resident and migratory birds.
History and Status
Edgewood’s recent history is also of interest. Since 1967 various development projects have been proposed, including a state college, a recreational complex, a solar energy facility, and a golf course. The golf course proposal generated considerable debate, starting in the early 1980’s when San Mateo County acquired the land and approved plans to develop an 18-hole golf course. It was not until the summer of 1993 that the County Board of Supervisors unanimously declared Edgewood County Park a Natural Preserve, protecting it from future development. In 1997, a completely revised Master Plan was adopted, recognizing protection, preservation, and restoration of Edgewood’s natural resources as the primary management objectives. Edgewood remains the only natural preserve in the San Mateo County park system. Its natural beauty is now enjoyed by well over 50,000 visitors every year.