By Bruce McPherson, County Supervisor 5th District
Thanks to the hard work and dedication of San Lorenzo Valley volunteers, business owners and other community leaders, there is a lot of exciting news to share as we head toward the beginning of summer.
Felton Library Nature Discovery Park
First, a huge congratulations to all of the project partners on the Felton Library Nature Discovery Park for winning a $395,000 grant from the California Outdoor Environmental Education Facilities Grant Program. This first-of-its-kind park in the county will connect future Felton library users directly to nature through an adjacent outdoor environmental education and interpretive loop trail.
I hope you’ll join me and the Santa Cruz County Department of Parks, Open Space and Cultural Services from 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 14 at the Felton Community Hall Meeting Room for a conversation about the park’s design. Felton Library Friends, Santa Cruz Public Libraries, San Lorenzo Valley Water District and County Parks can all be proud of their work on planning the two-acre park, which we hope will open in the Fall of 2019 along with the new library.
Landmarks Coming Back To Life
While the library and park will become new landmarks in Felton, there is a well-established landmark poised to reopen—the Trout Gulch Inn.
The many fond memories we all share of the restaurant on East Zayante Road are still intact even though a fire ripped through the building two years ago.
By August, extensive renovations are expected to be completed, and I’m excited to see what the Inn’s next incarnation will be. I appreciate all the dedication put into the rebuilding, both by the owners and by the County’s Planning Department.
Speaking of landmarks, the fabled Brookdale Lodge is also on the cusp of coming back to life. Owner Previn Patel hosted a successful hiring fair at the historic lodge on May 23 for jobs in housekeeping, security and reception, among others. Featuring close to four dozen renovated rooms, the Lodge could reopen as early as the first full week in June. Initially, only the rooms and the bar will be open while work continues on the famous Brook Room dining area. I look forward to seeing that special place full of visitors once again.
Highway 9 Master Plan
Highway 9 is undergoing a Master Planning process by the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission, of which I am a member. After hearing from constituents throughout the Valley, I have expressed to the RTC leadership what we see as the top priorities.
Overall, it’s important that the plan recognizes that Highway 9 really operates as a “main street” connecting our town centers. In keeping with the objectives of Caltrans’ “Complete Streets” approach, the plan should outline design changes that reduce speeds, create more convenient parking, make pedestrian crossings safe and improve lighting. The plan should also provide clear guidance on establishing right-of-ways to promote safer travel for all drivers.
In terms of specific project sites, the top priority expressed in recent focus groups is the part of Highway 9 nearest our combined school campuses in Felton. The safety of our children is of upmost importance, and improvements will need to be undertaken in both the Caltrans right of way and—working with the San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District—inside the campuses to promote better circulation and safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.
In Brookdale and Ben Lomond, we need to improve conditions for pedestrians as they walk along or cross Highway 9 between hotels and other services. Development of a formal bike lane in Ben Lomond would also increase visibility for cyclists and drivers alike. A dedicated left-turn lane into Highlands Park should also be a priority.
For Boulder Creek, the plan should explore diagonal parking to increase the number of spaces and slow traffic. Because we want to preserve the town’s character, installing center islands with tree planting—rather than adding stoplights—would add a pleasing aesthetic as well as shade for pedestrians on the eastside of the road.
Lastly, because the Valley is particularly vulnerable to slides during winter storms, the plan must identify ways to reinforce hillsides, improve runoff, and remove trees that pose threats to pedestrians and vehicles. And needs to be a better warning system for Highway 9 travelers when a road has closed due to a slide or other natural disaster.
If you would like to keep up to date on the plan, visit the RTC’s Highway 9 page at sccrtc.org/projects/streets-highways/hwy-9-plan/.