Boony Doon Gets Cemex Access Preview

by Clark Tate

Sept. 12, 2013—The atmosphere was more country club social than town hall meeting last night as representatives from the Cemex Redwood partnership met with members of the Rural Bonny Doon Association (RBDA) to explain the ins and outs of choosing public access points.

Friends and neighbors chatted away in stockinged feet (the floors at Boon Doon Elementary School were freshly waxed) as they pulled out extra chairs to accommodate a stellar turnout. Ted Benhari, editor of the RDBA’s Highlander newsletter, served as the meeting’s DJ, somehow setting a tone for the kind of earnest sentimentalism that inspires country stars to write love songs to their hometowns. But this unbiased reporter remained unaffected and impassively recorded the events of the evening, which were as follows.

Bryan Largay, Conservation Director at the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, stepped up to bat. Perhaps responding to a subtle but collective cringe at the words “Cemex Redwoods,” Largay offhandedly mentioned that the name will probably be replaced shortly (although it is fairly fitting, given the project’s potentially genius blend of commerce and conservation).

If you’re unfamiliar, the Cemex Redwoods property is an 8,500-acre parcel northeast of Davenport, and borders the Coast Dairies property in close proximity to the Bonny Doon Ecological Preserve, Wilder Ranch State Park and Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County and Sempervirens Fund purchased the land for $30 million in 2011 with the help of Save the Redwoods League, the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), and The Nature Conservancy. All but The Nature Conservancy are now charged with managing the property, 3,669 acres of which will be designated for sustainable timber harvest on a rotating basis, one chunk at a time, to fund the property’s preservation (i.e., keeping what’s healthy safe) and restoration (i.e., fixing what’s broken). Such an approach may be just the right balance of crazy v. brilliant in an era of shrinking state and federal conservation budgets.

Back to Largay: The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County pulled the public-access straw when responsibilities were divvied up. (Sempervirens and POST manage the property’s day-to-day operations, and Save the Redwoods League holds its partially state-funded conservation easement.) The process the Land Trust decided upon is a very collaborative one. Step one: public input. Largay emphasized that the goal was “to make sure that this regional asset is a benefit to you, and certainly not a burden.”

Largay invited the Bonny Dooners to communicate their wants and needs to him and his colleagues. You don’t want an access point within two miles of your house? Let them know. You want only one access point found only by secret treasure map? Let them know that too. How? On the worldwide web, obviously; by the end of October an online survey for preferred access points, accompanied by a detailed map, will be available to the public and NOTE: Please don’t do any field research for this one; trespassing on the property is still illegal.

The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County will also seek out input from key partners with vested or material interest in the property, e.g., the fire department, neighbors who share borders with the property, etc. These targeted interviews will focus on where access is inappropriate first, so that a better idea of potentially good locations can be formed. Safety issues, including the need for unhindered access in the case of a wildfire and search and rescue needs and burdens, were a key concern among the community.

An “opportunities and constraints” summary of the information collected is expected to be available for additional public comment in March 2014, with a finalized plan hoped for by the summer; next begins the formal government permitting and review processes. Largay said that with any luck, access will be available in about two years.

Aaron Hébert, a Stewardship Program Manager at Sempervirens, then gave a short explanation of the scientifically driven conservation plan that divided the property into 3,669 acres of working forest, 3,951 acres of restoration reserve (meaning it needs some work), and 912 acres of preservation reserve (including all of the property’s old-growth forest). The first timber harvest is being planned on up to 500 acres of the forest that was last harvested 15 years ago (within the 10 to 20 year redwood harvest cycle sustainability sweet spot being pioneered in the Santa Cruz area) at a light 30% to 40% rate. The revenue raised will go directly to priority restoration projects targeting sediment reduction and water quality improvements.