Coastal Rail Trail in motion

On Wednesday Josiah Adams and his dog, Eduardo, enjoy a casual trip over the new Coastal Rail Trail that is attached to the rail trestle that spans the San Lorenzo River in Santa Cruz. — Tarmo Hannula/LIFE

The City of Santa Cruz welcomed the community to celebrate the ribbon-cutting for the first segment of the Coastal Rail Trail Wednesday. The event, which also celebrates National Public Works Week, officially opened the San Lorenzo River Parkway Phase III/Trestle Trail Project. 

That project replaces the previous 4-foot wide walkway on the San Lorenzo River Railroad Trestle Bridge with a new 10-foot wide multi-use trail that features a slip-proof surface.

The Coastal Rail Trail includes numerous projects that, together, will provide a 32-mile long separated bicycle/pedestrian path along the coast between Watsonville and Davenport. It is a part of the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission’s (RTC) Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail Network Master Plan.

“The entire Santa Cruz community is excited by this first segment of the Coastal Rail Trail, which is being completed ahead of schedule,” said Mayor Martine Watkins. “Many residents have expressed how much safer and easier biking and walking will be for them. We’re super stoked to have this complete. This is how we get to the Boardwalk, and as the summer approaches, to Junior Guards.”

The Santa Cruz County RTC, Friends of the Rail and Trail and Ecology Action hosted tables at the heavily-attended, upbeat event Wednesday. After the ribbon-cutting ceremony a parade of Ecology Action’s Bike Ambassadors saluted the project, being that May is Bike Month.

“This is really a transformative project that will make it easier and safer for people to move across our community and connect our community in entirely new ways,” Santa Cruz County Supervisor Ryan Coonerty said Wednesday. “This is a community-wide team effort. All the people in public works … John Laird who works on the state level — none of these big public projects happen without the community push, the vision and the people who are experts in their fields.”

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With the new Coastal Rail Trail in the background, Santa Cruz County Supervisor Ryan Coonerty pays thanks to the umpteen groups and agencies that helped make the trail possible. — Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian

Coastal Rail Trail fundraising and planning started with former U.S. Congressman Sam Farr’s vision for a trail system that arcs around the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. He secured $4.5 million dollars in funding for the Santa Cruz County side of the trail system alone. Former Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency John Laird secured a grant of more than half a million dollars for the Trestle Trail Project. Transportation Development Act funds and Measure D tax dollars will fund the remainder of the $2 million Trestle Trail Project cost.

“I’ve been crossing this bridge since the 1960s,” said Frank Babis, who stopped by the project Sunday to have a look. “It’s super nice and they did a super fast job on it. Sometimes Santa Cruz does some goofy jobs, but this one is real nice.”

The Trestle Trail Project is constructed with a savings of over $4 million compared to the conceptual Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail Master Plan developed in 2013. The savings come from a structural analysis, which determined that a new stand-alone bike/pedestrian bridge was not necessary. Instead, the trail is cantilevered from the existing bridge, which saved significant time as well as cost.

Laird said he knew of the difficult task it was trying to cross the previous narrow bridge that has now been replaced.

“As somebody who was a UCSC student riding that bridge on a bicycle all the time, I can just appreciate what the task was,” he said. “Today is a day to celebrate.”

Stephen Slade, Executive Director for the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, said he envisions the entire 32-mile trail being completed in 10 years.

“This is only as great as the segments that will connect to this,” he said. “The segments are lined up. We’ve got the City of Santa Cruz segment, we’ve got the north coast segment, we’ve got the Bay to boardwalk segment, and we’ve got the engineering team from the city already working on the next segment on this side.”

Bruce Sawhill, Friends of the Rail and Trail former chair and founding member, said, “We’re ahead of time and under budget; we like that.”

On Sunday Eric Taborek road his bike over the bridge.

“I’m really glad it’s done,” he said. “I think it turned out great. This will be a great trail for this area.”

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