A group of Santa Cruz County Greenway activists performed a rail corridor cleanup just East of the San Lorenzo River Trestle where construction is underway on the first section of the Rail Trail. The effort resulted in the collection of 412 pounds of trash, including litter, used needles, cigarette butts, broken bottles and discarded clothing and bedding.
“Where will the Rail Trail go next? Literally, where?” asks Buzz Anderson, a long time Greenway enthusiast, who believes the trail should move forward and the rail part should be scrapped. He points out the lack of space in this segment, officially known as Segment 9.
The much touted Rail Trail groundbreaking widens the existing pedestrian gangway on the San Lorenzo Trestle from 3ft to 10ft, but once across the river, bikes and pedestrians will still have to navigate up a narrow ramp and will be funneled on to a 4ft sidewalk along busy East Cliff Dr before reaching the Seabright Brewery, Betty Burgers, Pacific Edge Climbing Gym and other Seabright destinations.
The narrow bike lane, which continues across the Santa Cruz Harbor, has seen numerous accidents in the recent past and a fatality in 2018. Nothing has been done to improve bike safety along this dangerous section since the passage of Measure D in 2016.
“Right now the plans make the trail run next to the rail instead of replacing the rail with a trail as Monterey, New York and thousands of other communities across the country have done,” said Anderson. “That adds time, money and endangers lives,” he added.
The current Rail Trail plan has no solution for both Rail and Trail to continue under East Cliff Dr. “If you did want to build a trail there (and keep the rail), you’d need to remove the trees, excavate the hillside, and build about an 11ft retaining wall,” says commercial real-estate appraiser Ryan Whitelaw.
Solving this same problem on Segment 7B, the Rail Trail stretch behind Neary Lagoon, has already produced plans for a nearly 30 ft. retaining wall and the removal of trees that are valuable monarch butterfly habitat. The local Sierra Club has challenged these plans because of the tree removal.
Nadene Thorne, a Greenway enthusiast for the past two years added, “I’d like to see the RTC go forward with building the Rail-Trail in this location (at Seabright). Massive concrete retaining walls and major excavation work would have to be done to keep the trail to the side of the existing tracks here. I personally would like to know what that is going to cost. It’s definitely a factor when you compare the current plan to the alternatives.”
“Bank the rail, build the trail,” said Manu Koenig, Executive Director of Santa Cruz County Greenway. “It’s time for the County to figure out the details of rail banking and move forward. For now, Greenway will try to keep the corridor clean and continue to encourage the RTC to act in the best interests of the people.”
Santa Cruz County Greenway is a 501(c) 4 non-profit advocacy organization whose mission is “to create a spectacular Greenway as the backbone of an active transportation and transit network.”
For more info: https://sccgreenway.org