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It feels like a weekly event: another meeting where opponents of the Rail Trail throw another obstacle in front of it and say, “Another obstacle, let’s quit.” This week’s obstacle was thrown into the mix by New Leaf Market on the West Side. New Leaf had a handshake agreement with the City that would have the trail next to the New Leaf parking lot – AND give them nine much needed parking places.

A win-win, you’d think, with New Leaf getting more parking and direct access to the trail. A win-win, at least, unless you wanted to delay building the first segment and jeopardize $4 million in federal funds.

City staff immediately amended its plan to reroute the trail onto city streets, calling it a short-term plan. The city’s make-shift move is necessary to meet the deadlines of the federal funds for the project. The city hopes New Leaf will change its mind again.

When word got out what was happening, someone started a petition (Gary Larson) and was shocked that it had 2,000 signers in just two days. Friends of the Rail and Trail (FORT), Bike Santa Cruz County, and the Land Trust all helped circulate the petition, an example of how we are collaborating to defend this transformative project from sustained attack. Another example of our collaboration is the Top Ten Reasons to Build the Rail Trail Now.

This week’s obstacle was overcome when the Santa Cruz City Council unanimously approved the work-around. I have a feeling that the “Train Never” people will keep throwing obstacles in the way – and those of us who want the Rail Trail built ASAP will keep finding ways around them.

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Stephen Slade is the Executive Director at Land Trust of Santa Cruz County. He has more than 40 years non-profit experience in fundraising, communications, and management – and a deep passion for the lands that make Santa Cruz special.

Find out more about Stephen Slade…

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. To clear up a few questions the community seems to have:

    This New Leaf store, the tenant, and the property owner had agreed to the easement solution that would keep the trail on the coastal side of the tracks and in front of the store, and certain concessions would allow the store to net additional parking spaces, a “win-win”. After New Seasons bought the store, the easement agreement was lost. The property owner is still on board but can’t act independently of the tenant. New Leaf needs to agree to the easement, as well.

    I played the recording of the council meeting and the city engineer explained “they told us they changed their mind and did not want to provide the easement. We tried negotiating a few times… …the response was that they wanted to wait for the Unified Corridor Study to be completed.”

    This new position is identical to the anti-rail trail groups that spoke at the same meeting; Greenway and Trail Now. In the face of losing federal funds, the city wisely created a temporary plan B, the New Leaf detour, so that construction could stay on schedule and the funds be preserved, and cyclists have the hope of riding in a safer environment.

    The City Council wisely voted unanimously to move forward with the detour. If New Leaf wants to be a community partner, let them come back to their original agreement.

    Rail and Trail, serving more people in more ways and truly connecting our coastal communities.

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