Skip to comments.Large Number of Trails Opening in Santa Cruz Mountains, Thanks to Conservation Work
Posted on 12/16/2022 12:21:26 PM PST by nickcarraway
The Santa Cruz Mountains will soon offer a slew of new trails for hiking and biking, the product of years of grassroots work to open thousands of acres of private lands to the public.
The first new trails are at San Vicente Redwoods, a preserve near the community of Bonny Doon. The property was acquired as part of a campaign by conservation groups to safeguard what is one of the largest privately owned redwood forests in California. Formerly mined and logged by materials giant Cemex, the newly protected land is making its public premiere with about 8 miles of trails on Dec. 3.
Nearby, the Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument in Davenport, which was designated a national monument by President Barack Obama after longstanding threats of development, had planned its opening this fall but that’s been put on hold for at least a few months to address traffic concerns. Four miles of trails have been built, and more are expected to emerge before the monument’s debut.
“I can’t think of such a large trail network that’s opening at (about) the same time, not in a generation,” said Sara Barth, executive director of the Sempervirens Fund, a land trust that works to conserve property in the Santa Cruz area. “And we really need it.”
The Santa Cruz Mountains, which rise between Silicon Valley and the sea, have long been a haven for outdoor activities, with such marquee spots as Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Roaring Camp Railroads and the Peninsula Open Space Trust preserves. Still, much of the area remains in private hands and a lot of it burned in the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex fires, making new recreation sites that much more welcome.
“It couldn’t come at a better time,” Barth said. “A variety of conservation efforts that have been decades-in-the-making are now culminating with opportunity for public access.”
Those heading to the 9,000-acre San Vicente Redwoods will undoubtedly see the remnants of the region’s largest wildfire in modern history. The first 8 miles of a planned 38-mile trail system, which are designed as a series of stacked loops, wind through charred oaks, madrones and redwoods. A carpet of green saplings and brush, though, is emerging from the forest floor.
“There’s a beauty to it still, for sure,” said Carie Thompson, access director for the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, which is helping manage the property. “The silver lining is that there are a lot of ocean views now. There were none before.”
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Thompson and other preserve managers have not only been watching the regrowth of vegetation but, with a network of cameras and audio sensors, the resettlement of wildlife.
“We see tons of mountain lions, badgers, bobcats and deer,” she said.
The $30 million purchase of the property from Cemex in 2011 and an ensuing decade of trail and restoration work are a joint effort by the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, Sempervirens Fund, Peninsula Open Space Trust and Save the Redwoods League.
Starting Dec. 3, San Vicente Redwoods will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily for hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians. The new trailhead and parking lot are on Empire Grade Road, about 15 miles from Santa Cruz. Visitors will be required to obtain and carry a free day-use pass.
Managers of the 6,000-acre Cotoni-Coast Dairies, meanwhile, have put on hold the opening of the first leg of a planned 27-mile trail system off Highway 1, about 10 miles north of Santa Cruz. Local concerns about traffic have prompted the Bureau of Land Management to rethink where cars will park before debuting the national monument.
BLM spokesperson Philip Oviatt told The Chronicle the delay could be a few months to a couple years.
Cotoni-Coast Dairies, whose name reflects the native Ohlone group that lived on the land as well as its more recent agricultural heritage, was acquired by the BLM in 2014. The San Francisco-based Trust for Public Land gave the property to the federal government after securing it in an effort to prevent luxury housing from being built there.
In 2017, Obama designated the area part of the California Coastal National Monument, raising its profile and promising greater protection. The property, which consists largely of coastal prairie and redwood forests, has remained off-limits to visitors.
“This trail network and Cotoni-Coast Dairies will really offer some of the best views of the Santa Cruz coast,” said Katy Poniatowski, with Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Stewardship, the organization building the monument’s trails.
The 4 miles that have been constructed so far are north of Davenport. They’re part of what’s expected to be three back-to-back loop trails that extend 9 miles to open ridges, through thick woodlands and along meandering creeks. Additional trails are planned south of Davenport.
“It’s a lot of new access,” said Poniatowski, whose group also built the trails at San Vicente Redwoods. “Our area really needs this access. We’ve seen the trails here become so popular, both for residents and visitors. It’s really inspiring.”
Bear and mountain lion attacks on the upswing.
Looks pretty, though....
Supposedly they don’t have bears in the Santa Cruz Mountains anymore, or they are very shy. Mountain Lions are more likely to attack humans when they get can’t find food and come into human areas.
Let's go, Banana Slugs!
Mountain lions and bears happy!
1) A friend did most of the cleanup after the fire. He lost his house as well. It took near 2 yrs to get the permits to rebuild.
2) ‘coho salmon will be free to swim home again’
Coho are nonnative in this area. They were planted around 1900 from hatcheries in the northwest.
Beautiful area but overrun with loonies.
And you can’t carry a gun to protect yourself from them.
How about some Jeep trails? I sold the Jeep I used to keep at my Arizona winter home because trails were either being closed off or allowed to deteriorate to the point of becoming impassible. Not everyone wants to hike or bicycle.
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