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Last week a blogger put out some false information about the Land Trust’s position on the Rail Trail.  To set the record straight, the Land Trust has:

  • never promoted a bus option for the corridor,
  • never told the RTC that the funds we’ve raised for the Rail Trail can’t be used “if you don’t have a train,”
  • never taken a position on passenger rail (we’ll leave that to the transportation experts).

The Rail Trail is a trail built alongside the tracks. Building the trail doesn’t require having trains, but it does mean that the trail is built in a way that preserves the option of having trains in the future. (You can read our policy on Building the Rail Trail ASAP and Preserving the Rail Option here.)

What we have done is commit to provide $5.9M in matching grants to get the trail built as soon as possible. These trail segments can move forward only because they are part of a master plan that has been approved by all levels of government, and has completed and approved environmental documents. These approvals mean the Rail Trail can be built as soon as funding is available.

Our efforts helped catalyze $19M in public funding for the design and/or construction of 13 miles of the 32-mile trail. The first segment will be open NEXT YEAR. With Measure D funds (and a united “get it done” effort), Santa Cruz could have the ENTIRE trail built in 10 years.

The Land Trust’s proud support for this transformative local trail project, and its timely completion, is a matter of record.

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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 4 Comments
  1. Bill, a 12-16 foot+ pathway parallel to our valuable rail line is nothing like a highway for heavy vehicles, and the rail line itself is a built to very specific standards. It would be a tragic waste to level it for a trail when the current plan takes a much gentler and more economical approach. This eleventh hour call to rip out tracks to build an inferior and unfunded Trail Only design is misguided and should be taken off the table as soon as possible so that we can continue with construction of the Coastal Rail Trail, now funded by Measure D and millions generated by the Land Trust and friends.

    Conversion of the rail line to a trail would cost far more than building the current design, a parallel trail. First, we would have 10+ years of studies, then have to remove thousands of tons of material and then reconfigure slope and drainage and access solutions. Worse, removal of a working piece of infrastructure and all of the invested energy and material would be a terrible waste and mean rail transit would probably never return. The working rail line and the passenger rail option are priceless and are properly retained in the current plan.

    So, not only is the current Coastal Rail Trail plan more economical to build and years ahead in terms of construction and funding, a careful comparison of the Master Plan and EIR to “Trail Only” plans reveals a much safer and wider plan if we keep the tracks. For example, Trail Only wants to squeeze users into narrow 8-foot wide converted trestle crossings while the Coastal Rail Trail design provides new, safe, wide dedicated bike and pedestrian crossings.

    The Land Trust, in their wisdom, knows that good land use policy includes smart transportation planning policy. Rail corridors are environmentally benign compared to paved and congested highways, and better transportation policy, like expanding trails and transit, means less land given over to transportation and more space for you and for me and for coyotes and wildflowers!

    Thank you, Land Trust, for correcting the record!

  2. The existing train tracks sit on basically a constructed road with 16 bridges, which could be paved over to create a spectacular bike path and pedestrian trail for approximately 40 million. Building a second, equivalent, road is exorbitant, unnecessary expense of well over $450 million, and is probably unbuildable due to lack of space. The train may make sense in the future only if the current job density goes up a factor of 10. Another words, create a “San Jose by the Sea” for our grandchildren. You do support building and inferior trail next to the existing tracks, thereby preserving them for the train, estimated at $125 million. By doing so, you are promoting use for the rail bed right of way to something other than a bike/pedestrian trail, and deceptively misleading the public that they can have an equivalent trail and save the Train. By not understanding the consequences of your position you clearly will waste millions of dollars of the public’s money on an inferior trail, next to empty rail tracks, and wonder why you could have just put the trail there at a fraction of the cost.

  3. I attended an informative presentation by the Land Trust and Regional Transportation Commission at the Paradox Hotel about a year ago and I’ve followed progress on the trail ever since. The rail trail plans are comprehensive and impressive and the Land Trust has clearly been the best friend a trail lover could possibly hope for. There is no reason to think that any investment in highway one expansion can hope to solve congestion problems but a continuous safe trail sure would, and keeping those tracks undisturbed as we determine how to add transit to the mix seems like the only sensible thing to do. Thank you, Land Trust! Now let’s grab a shovel and get to work!

  4. I’m so sorry that the Land Trust has to continuously clarify it’s role in providing matching funding for the rail trail project. I am so grateful to the Land Trust for providing so much local matching funds so that the trail can move forward and get built. I can’t wait to use some of the Watsonville trails that will be completed in the near future.

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