Town Hall With Supervisor Neal Coonerty

neal-coonertyNow that the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission has purchased the Union Pacific Rail line, what is the status of the rail trail project?

The Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) is currently in full swing planning for the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail Network. This project merges plans for a bicycle/pedestrian trail along the rail line that will serve transportation, recreation and interpretive uses for walkers, joggers, bicyclists, families, locals, and visitors.  

The broad vision is for a Trail Network project that will span the coast of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary from the San Mateo/Santa Cruz County line to Pacific Grove, in Monterey County. The RTC is leading the planning effort for project development in Santa Cruz County and the Transportation Agency for Monterey County (TAMC) is responsible for Monterey County projects. This approach will ensure that when construction of all trail segments are complete, that the planned bicycle/pedestrian network will provide connectivity throughout the county and into the Monterey Bay region, as well as tie in the larger California Coastal Trail and Pacific Coast Bicycle Trails.

The RTC has developed a draft plan that can be accessed on the RTC website, sccrtc.org. The Trail Network Draft Master Plan was released in October and identifies proposed trail alignments, and provides recommendations for design standards, project prioritization, implementation mechanisms, and ongoing maintenance. The 32 miles of proposed trail has been divided into segments so that the public can more easily weigh in on which segments they would like to be prioritized when funding becomes available for construction. The RTC has recently concluded a series of public meetings throughout the county to gather input from county residents in preparation for a Draft Environmental Impact Report, which is scheduled to be released in the spring of 2013. I attended the Nov. 27 meeting in Davenport, which was well attended by North Coast residents.  

Approximately $7 million of local and federal funds have already been secured for construction of initial segments. I plan to continue to aggressively seek funds for this project locally, at the state level, and with our Member of Congress, Sam Farr, who is also an avid supporter of the Trail Network, for additional federal funds. The RTC is still taking public comments on the Trail Network Draft Master Plan, so please consider reviewing the plan yourself and submit any input you might have to the SCCRTC.  

What can the county do to address concerns about garbage and toxic waste in public areas, especially beaches and parks?

I share the community’s concern about garbage and toxic waste being found in public areas. This is not acceptable. We should be able to go to our community’s wonderful parks and beaches without worrying about unsightly or dangerous garbage. I am committed to working with government agencies, community organizations and active community members to address this problem.

County Public Health officials have discussed this problem and assessed current needle exchange resources to determine if increased needle exchange services should be a part of the solution. I’ve met with them to identify a range of alternatives for responding to the problem.

I will be attending the City of Santa Cruz’s Public Safety Committee meeting on Dec. 17 to hear from others and to identify steps that we can take to deal with the waste that is left in our public areas. Representatives from County Public Health will also be participating in the Public Safety Committee’s meeting. This is a problem for the cities and the county and I will continue to cooperate with local officials to address these challenges in our community.

I know there is a lot of (understandable) frustration in the community about this issue. By working together and staying vigilant, we can improve the situation.

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