An update on the projects we launched with our Great Land & Trail Campaign
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of Landmarks.
We have protected 460 acres straddling Laurel Curve on Highway 17, paving the way for Caltrans to pick a design, engineer it, and then build the tunnel. Design is underway and Caltrans is expected to choose a design next year. One design is basically a tunnel punched through the earth under Laurel Curve. The other involves turning the Laurel Curve section of the highway into a bridge. Construction could begin in 2019 or 2020.
Before construction can begin, the Regional Transportation Commission will have to allocate $5 million of Measure D funds and the Land Trust will have to raise another $2 million to meet its $3 million commitment to help fund construction. We’ve met with Caltrans staff who are excited to be working on their first purpose-built wildlife crossing in the state.
San Vicente Redwoods Trails
The Land Trust and its partners are approaching the end of a long, detailed planning process – with the goal of building 38 miles of trails, while minimizing the impact of their use on wildlife and the natural resources of this 8,500-acre forest. The working draft of the plan closes 7,700 acres to all public access, and the trails are being planned to avoid sensitive wildlife habitat and protect water resources. The plan should be completed in early 2018 and then go through a permitting process that will likely take a year or so. Construction of the first phase of trails could begin in 2019 and be open that summer.
The first segment of the Rail Trail will open in 2018 and will run from Bay Avenue to Natural Bridges in Santa Cruz. More than $40 million has been secured for work on 13 miles of the 32-mile trail – with the North Coast, Live Oak and Watsonville segments expected to be built within three to four years. The Land Trust has committed $6 million to match grants to build these segments and still needs to raise $2 million to meet that commitment.
The Rail Trail has become a “hot topic” lately, a bit of a surprise for a plan adopted in 2013 and actually being implemented right now. We’ve developed new materials on our website under the All About Your Local Rail Trail section: www.LandTrustSantaCruz.org.
We are working now on easements protecting two properties in the Corralitos area. These two properties, along with two others we have already protected, will create a 330-acre block of protected orchards off Freedom Boulevard – and in the path of development.
The Next Big Project
We are working now on protecting five properties that we can’t tell you about – and one we can tell you a little about. Some of these efforts may fall short, but some will be completed. They include forest, grazing land, farmland, and Sandhills habitat – and a beach that would be a spectacular property for access (see opposite page). Most of these properties are critical wildlife habitat and two of them are critical for wildlife movement through the Santa Cruz Mountains and beyond. These properties total more than 5,000 acres. Our members’ donations support the behind-the-scenes work that leads to the next big project. •