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Cemex Recreation Access Planning Begins

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Cemex property, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, dog-friendly, Land Trust of Santa Cruz County

Nov. 13, 2013—If you live in Santa Cruz County and love to play outdoors, chances are you've spent some time daydreaming about what could become of the 8,500-acre Cemex property. Hiking seems like a safe bet—liability and impact are low. But what about mountain biking? Horseback riding? How about dogs? With leashes or without? Should trails be multi-use or dedicated by activity?

Today the process of figuring all that out begins. The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, one of the five partners that purchased the land from Cemex for $30 million in December 2011, has published an online questionnaire seeking public input about what kinds of activities people do—and don't—want to see on the property. It includes items on parking, placement of trailheads and activities from hiking to backpacking. A map helps you get the lay of the land.

Bonny Doon Gets Cemex Access Preview
A Forester For The Trees

Bryan Largay, director of conservation at the Land Trust and point person for the access plan, says responses to the questionnaire will inform an Opportunities and Constraints Analysis scheduled for publication in March. Between now and then, the Land Trust will also be meeting with small groups of stakeholders (think horse people, Bonny Doon neighbors and mountain bikers) to get their input. Following release of the report in March, the Land Trust will hold a large public meeting to gather yet more comment before drawing up a final access blueprint. "We anticipate the plan will be done by next October, and the permit process from the county will take a year," Largay says. That means schedule your first hike/walk/ride for the fall of 2015.

But not first dirt bike outing. And probably not first water slide ride at the Cemex Disney-themed water park either. Largay explains that activities that impair conservation values—things like protection of biodiversity and provision of water—are basically nonstarters.

"So, for example, motorized vehicle recreation has posed a problem for resource conservation areas in a variety of settings, so it’s fairly easy for us to rule that out as very difficult, if not impossible, to provide without impacting biodiversity or water quality," Largay says.

"Something like mountain biking is much more of a gray area. If it’s done well, the impact on those conservation values should be negligible. And if it’s done poorly the impact could be significant."

The Cemex property, which runs in a redwood- and oak-forested swath from Empire Grade nearly to Highway 1, lies at the heart of a nearly contiguous 27,000-acre block of protected land. To the west is Coast Dairies, to the south is Wilder Ranch State Park, to the east is the Fall Creek unit of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and to the north is Big Basin.

The property already has 70 miles of fire road. It also has two inholdings (private properties surrounded by Cemex land). "Chief concerns we’ve gathered so far from neighbors are people are concerned about invasion of privacy by people staring in their windows or walking onto their property," says Largay, adding that Cemex is fortunately big enough to allow for plenty of buffer space between trails and houses.

"Another concern of residents is the risk of fire," he continues. "So one of the nonstarters is open flame campfires. One of the gray areas we need to figure out is, is it realistic to think we can have hike-in camping with backcountry stove-type cooking equipment being mandatory and have that be a realistic, feasible strategy to manage the fire risk? Can we count on people to behave themselves?"

The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County will be accepting responses to the Cemex Access Questionnaire until March.

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