Good News for Coastal Rail Trail

If the federal government approves a 4.6-mile segment of the Rail Trail for funding, the 32-mile ribbon of asphalt running from Watsonville to Davenport will be 25 percent paid for.

by Hilltromper staff

April 10, 2015—Hey, Santa Cruz County! Want to ride your bike to Four-Mile Beach without the sheer terror of negotiating Highway 1? Or take your cousins on a big ride to see Coast Dairies and maybe picnic at Laguna Beach? Or train for that marathon in the fresh coastal air? All without fear of being creamed?

Well, get ready. A 4.6-mile segment of the proposed Coastal Rail Trail, from Wilder Ranch State Park to Laguna Road, is now a finalist for federal funding. According to today's announcement by the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission, the $9 million segment's candidacy for inclusion in the Federal Highway Administration's Federal Lands Access Program has a lot to do with "an unprecedented" $3 million match made by the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County. Additionally, the California Coastal Conservancy kicked in $950,000. "These matching funds enabled the RTC to submit a very competitive grant application," the agency said in a press release.

Read Coming Soon: Cycling Around Monterey Bay

Given that the name of the program is the "Federal Lands Access Program," it also seems it was helpful that Coast Dairies is owned by the federal Bureau of Land Management. The property is the subject of a campaign for designation as a national monument.

The feds will notify the RTC as to whether it got the $4.4 million grant to build the segment next to the existing railroad following an "on-site assessment," but the agency is "very optimistic of a positive outcome," which is about as excited as a government body is allowed to get in print.

Last year the Land Trust took the lead role in fundraising for the Coastal Rail Trail, meaning it raises money to serve as a match for precisely these kinds of grant applications. That's because state and federal government like to see buy-in on the part of the locals before investing in big projects on the ground.

In the Land Trust's Story of the Week, deputy director Stephen Slade writes, "This means that a quarter of the 32 miles of the Coastal Rail Trail have been funded—2.4 miles from the Boardwalk to Natural Bridges, close to 1 mile in the City of Watsonville, and now this 4.6-mile segment between one great state park and Coast Dairies. ... Life in Santa Cruz just got a little sweeter!"

Yes, indeedy.