How a seven year fight to save a San Jose trestle ended
The Willow Glen Trestle was demolished this week after conservationists lost a seven year battle to save it. Photo courtesy of Dave Poeschel.

A steel bridge stored in Colorado may soon cross over Los Gatos Creek in San Jose’s Willow Glen neighborhood, replacing the nearly 100-year-old railroad structure a crew began demolishing this week.

“It will be connected by fall – even if it is not paved,” said Councilmember Dev Davis.

A band of preservationists fought for seven years to save the trestle, arguing that it was historically significant. Others said it was an environmental hazard.

Linking the Los Gatos Creek Trail drove one ex-councilman to favor demolition.

“The only way to get this done was to move forward with this project, “ said former District 6 Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio.

The struggle delayed park projects, said Davis, who now represents District 6.

“I will breathe a huge sigh of relief when the new bridge gets put into place,” she said

Following a last-ditch effort by local conservationists to save the Willow Glen Trestle, demolition on the almost century-old railroad bridge started earlier this week. The 6th District Court of Appeals last month rejected the advocates’ final appeal.

Superior Court Judge Patricia Lucas denied the injunction on Monday. Lucas wrote in her ruling that the group’s most recent attempt to stop demolition “is presumably the strongest case that an expert advocate could make” but still had “very little if any discernible merit.”

Davis said that without the years in court it would have taken, at the most, two years to finish the trail.

“It’s a relief to be done with the arduous court process and to know that the community will benefit from that trail connection very soon,” Davis said.

City leaders had long sought to raze the 98-year-old railroad.

The trestle saga started in 2014, when the San Jose City Council voted to replace the weathered trestle and link the Willow Glen neighborhood to Del Monte Park.

Oliverio at the time said he was concerned that the creosote-infused wooden beams were a structural, environmental and fire hazard.

This file photo shows the Willow Glen Trestle before it was demolished.

Built in 1922 for the Western Pacific Railroad, the trestle fell into the city’s possession in 2011. Within a couple years, San Jose leaders were planning to replace it with a pedestrian bridge to connect the Three Creeks Trail system.

Determined to preserve what they called an important part of the Santa Clara Valley’s rich agricultural heritage, the Friends of the Willow Glen Trestle lobbied to have it put on the California Register of Historical Resources.

The state Historical Resources Commission agreed the trestle had historic value — a decision later upheld.

“We will of course honor the history of the rail line,” Davis said. She envisions a commemorative plaque.

One of the Friends of the Willow Glen Trestle leaders, Larry Ames, called the trestle’s removal “truly a loss for our community.”

Ames, a longtime Willow Glen resident, said he and his wife went searching for the state’s first Capitol building when they moved to San Jose years ago “only to find it’d been torn down, with only a small placard marking where it once had been.”

“I fear that whatever is planned to commemorate the Willow Glen Trestle will be similarly inadequate,” Ames said.

Contact Julia Baum at juliabaum84@yahoo.com or follow her @jbaum_news on Twitter.

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