Updated April 2017
THE GREAT LAND & TRAIL CAMPAIGN
In January, the Land Trust completed its Great Land & Trail Campaign. With $15 million raised in 15 months, the Land Trust has been able to launch and make great headway on each of the campaign’s four projects — building 45 miles of new trails, building the wildlife tunnel, protecting farmland, and helping build the Coastal Rail Trail.
Some projects will take years to complete, as we work with landowners, and nonprofit and government partners on permitting and funding constraints. We will continue working on all these projects and share progress with you along the way.
HIGHWAY 17 WILDLIFE CROSSING
In March, the Land Trust completed the protection of the final property needed to build the Highway 17 Wildlife Crossing—a project that we launched back in 2014 with the protection of 10 acres at Laurel Curve. The protection of the 170-acre “Marywood” property brings the total land protected for the crossing to 460 acres. With $3.1 million from the CA Transportation Commission for tunnel design and engineering, and $5 million from Measure D for construction. The tunnel could be built by 2020!
The Land Trust has been working to protect farm and ranchland in the Pajaro Valley since 2000. In early 2016, the Land Trust protected 124 acres of apple orchard. The orchard borders the 75-acre Pista orchard, which the Land Trust purchased a conservation easement on in 2011. The project creates a 200-acre block of protected farmland adjacent to the Watsonville City limit. The Newtown Pippin apple variety grown on these two properties is the “secret ingredient” to Martinelli’s apple cider.
The Land Trust has an ongoing responsibility to maintain the lands under its care – because we don’t just protect land and forget about it! This past winter, Santa Cruz County has seen more rain than it has in more than a decade, and our stewardship staff has been busy keeping up with all the damage – they’ve been in the field managing road conditions, fallen trees, and clearing mudslides. The Land Trust is also working to grow its network of volunteer stewards. In 2016, 110 volunteers helped pull invasive weeds and clear trails.
With the addition of both farmland and Sandhills habitat last year, the Land Trust now protects more than 3,100 acres through conservation easements. Conservation easements provide an innovative way for landowners to protect their properties, restricting development and allowing the land to remain in private ownership.
COASTAL RAIL TRAIL
The Land Trust is providing $4.3 million in matching funds for the North Coast segment of the Coastal Rail Trail. Measure D will also provide $85 million towards the project. This 32-mile bike and pedestrian path will span the length of Santa Cruz County and is located within a mile of 44 schools, 92 parks, and more than half the county’s population. To date, 13 miles have either design or construction funding in place, and the Santa Cruz segment is slated to be built next year.
Planning trails for San Vicente Redwoods has taken longer than expected, mostly because this work (building environmentally-sensitive, multi-use trails) has not been done by a nonprofit in Santa Cruz County before. The Land Trust is in the early stages of developing the plan for building trails at the Watsonville Slough Farm, and will be hosting key stakeholder meetings this summer or fall.