A segment of the Coastal Rail Trail, a planned bike/pedestrian path that could one day connect Watsonville to Davenport, officially opened last week.
This new 1.2-mile section of asphalt trail, which is 12- to 16-feet wide, runs from Natural Bridges Drive to Bay Street and California Street on Santa Cruz’s Westside. Graniterock built the trail segment, which features 10 bright green bicycle crossings, several new pedestrian crosswalks, signage, and new fencing. One goal of the trail is to provide a safe connection between schools, activity centers, parks and businesses.
“This is my very first day to walk on the trail,” said Sara Walsh, who lives nearby, as she strolled Segment 7. “I love it. I try to do walks two times a day, so this will be perfect because this area is in my regular loop. It feels safe, and I think it will make the neighborhood feel more comfortable.”
The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) has been handling high-level planning for the trail, which is part of the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail Network. For years, the RTC has been studying the possibility of introducing transit, like a commuter train, alongside the trail, an idea that’s been met with mixed reception over its feasibility, projected ridership and its possible costs.
The rail trail project is divided into 20 segments—one and a half of which have now been built. The city of Santa Cruz is wrapping up the design phase of the second phase of Segment 7.
The first completed section of rail trail, Segment 9, includes the bike lane outside the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and an extension of a bridge over the San Lorenzo River that opened in January of 2019.
At the ribbon-cutting, Santa Cruz County Supervisor Ryan Coonerty, an RTC commissioner, praised the $9 million Westside trail project.
“It’s an incredible way to get across town,” he said. “Soon we will have a 32-mile bike and pedestrian path across Santa Cruz County.”
The new section of trail called for 600 tons of asphalt, mostly made up of asphalt grinding from recent road projects.
Kevin Winch, who’s lived near the adjoining railroad tracks for the past 20 years, welcomed the addition as he toured it by bike.
“Yes, I will definitely use it,” he said. “I used to ride along the tracks on the dirt all the time so this is nice; I like it. Graniterock did a nice job. As you can see, it’s certainly getting used.”
After cutting the ribbon, Mayor Cummings ran through a long list of thank yous for making the project happen, including for the RTC, Pacific Crest Engineering of Watsonville, former Congressmember Sam Farr, county supervisors, the Coastal Conservancy, Ecology Action, and Bike Santa Cruz County.
The trail is designed to welcome people with disabilities, walkers, bikers, and parents with small children.
In South County, work is moving ahead on the south section of the trail off of Ohlone Parkway in Watsonville. There the trail will tie into the more than six miles of slough trails.