Trails and Rails

scenic trailSANTA CRUZ > Santa Cruz’s hikers, bikers and runners will be happy to hear that a new network of trails stretching is in the works. The project, called the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail Network, will feature multi-use paths for both bicyclists and pedestrians that run alongside the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line.

Although planning is still in the early stages, members of the community have been invited to participate in a series of workshops and voice their opinions on proposed network connections. This week marked the first round of workshops, with meetings taking in place in Davenport, Santa Cruz and Watsonville. Feedback from the workshops will be used to create a master plan that outlines designs, opportunities and restrictions in the proposed trail network.

“We’re in a brand new situation here,” Cory Colletti, Santa Cruz’s senior transportation planner, said at Wednesday’s workshop at the Simpkins Swim Center. “We need your input and your vision in shaping the development of this master plan.”

The trail network is unique for this area due to its proximity to the rail line. Recently, similar rails-with-trails projects have been successfully implemented in cities like Madison, WI and Portland, OR. The Branch Rail Line stretches 32 miles along the coast from Davenport to Watsonville, making it an ideal scenic location for the main “spine” trail. Smaller trails, called “spurs” will connect with the spine, providing access to schools, parks, neighborhoods and commercial centers.

The Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) has partnered with RRM Design Group, a trail planning and consulting firm, to help identify possible connections and alignments. Congressman Sam Farr (D-17th District) has also worked closely with the project, helping to secure $4.5 million in federal funding to finance the initiative.

The RTC will continue to draft the master plan and will conduct an environmental impact survey over the coming year. Two more rounds of community workshops will be held next year to gain feedback about proposed routes and the finalized draft.

To find out more about the Scenic Trail Network, visit sccrtc.org.

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