The plan tries to “improve management while preserving one of California’s most beautiful stretches of coastline,” Santa Cruz County spokesman Jason Hoppin wrote in a statement. “Santa Cruz County’s North Coast has limited visitor amenities, infrastructure and law enforcement, and high visitation levels have increasingly overwhelmed the area and threatened natural resources, public safety and visitor experience,” Hoppin wrote.
Leaders also wanted to prepare for more tourists in the coming years with the anticipated opening of the Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument and North Coast rail trail. Rail-trail work could begin as soon as early April, a Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission representative said Thursday.
Because North Coast beaches and public spaces are managed by separate agencies, a shared vision and plan was needed, said County Parks Project Manager Rob Tidmore.
“Everyone felt like it was important to coordinate as much as possible” to prepare for that, said Tidmore.
Private meetings took place last year among representatives of Santa Cruz County Parks, State Parks, Caltrans, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County and the Trust for Public Land. After the draft plan was published in October, county leaders held a Nov. 30 meeting in Davenport and online to gather residents’ feedback.
Some potential projects in the draft plan include:
- “Overnight cabins, (a) discovery center, dining hall and kitchen” at Greyhound Rock County Park.
- A tourist “excursion train” from Davenport to Wilder Ranch State Park if a train operator proposes it.
- Paved parking in Davenport and Panther Beach as part of the rail trail project.
- Restrooms at Panther Beach and Shark Fin Cove.
- Restrooms and improved parking at Four Mile Beach.
- A Highway 1 bridge replacement and restrooms at Scott Creek Beach.
- Renovations in the cultural preserve area of Wilder Ranch State Park and improved accessibility at the park’s Old Cove Landing Trail.
Leaders from the separate agencies will be responsible for pursuing money and approval for each of the separate projects.
Agency representatives proposed many of the projects, but public input influenced proposals such as a restroom at Shark Fin Cove.
Residents were asked to list the top three projects they wanted the agencies to pursue in an online poll that closed Dec. 18. A final plan with priority projects is expected in spring, Tidmore said.
Road safety problems
Two of the most common concerns in public feedback were a lack of traffic safety on Highway 1 and a need for alternate transportation, Tidmore said.
In a Nov. 30 meeting about the draft plan, Jennifer McNulty of Davenport expressed concern about the lack of safety plans for Highway 1 crossings in Davenport, as well as at the future entrance to Cotoni-Coast Dairies.
“There have been accidents there, there will be more accidents there,” McNulty said of crossings in Davenport. “We have to have that figured out.”
Leaders of the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission plan to gather more public input on traffic safety problems this summer as part of a separate Santa Cruz County North Coast Transit Demand Management Plan.
Shannon Munz, a spokeswoman for the commission, said that plan would propose new strategies and “address visitor transportation needs, safety and operational challenges on Highway 1 created by visitor demand and behaviors.”
Leaders of the Davenport/North Coast Association praised the efforts and process of the North Coast plan’s working group and were dissatisfied with the lack of public safety improvements to accompany the proposals. The association aims in part to represent the interests of North Coast residents.
“Traffic conditions on the North Coast create hazards for motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Beach visitors face dangers at most beaches and beach approaches, of which they are poorly advised by current signage,” Davenport/North Coast Association leaders wrote in a Dec. 11 letter to County Parks.
“The plan seems to accept as inevitable a continuing siloed approach to project delivery, with functionally related and geographically proximate project elements implemented over decades rather than in parallel,” it stated.
Potential North Coast projects
The North Coast draft plan splits potential projects into nine zones from north to south.
The North Coast Facilities Management Plan lists current parking, restrooms and trash bins in nine zones. County Parks released this revised map in January. (County of Santa Cruz)
Zone 1 includes Big Basin Redwoods State Park and Waddell Creek. County leaders released this revised map in January. (County of Santa Cruz)
At Waddell Creek Beach, State Parks leaders suggested upgraded beach parking. On the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail in Big Basin Redwoods State Park, equestrian camping is proposed.
Zone 2 contains a proposal for cabins at Greyhound Rock County Park. County Parks released this revised map in January. (County of Santa Cruz)
Greyhound Rock County Park now has beach access, parking lots, trails and restrooms. (Tyler Maldonado — Santa Cruz Local)
Tidmore said cabins could be built and rented to visitors at Greyhound Rock County Park.
“The thing that is most appealing is that there will be a small amount of revenue generated from the project that we’d get and invest back into the property for better management and better natural resource management,” Tidmore said. “There’s a lot of sensitive environmental species and environmental habitats out there that currently don’t have funding.”
Zone 3 of the plan includes a Highway 1 bridge over Scott Creek that is expected to be replaced in the next 10 years as part of Caltrans’ Scott Creek Coastal Resiliency Project. (Terry Way — Contributed)
Zone 3 contains a proposal for a restroom near Scott Creek Beach, but its feasibility is unclear in part because of sea-level rise, authorities said. Caltrans owns the parking area. County Parks released this revised map in January. (County of Santa Cruz)
The North Coast plan includes some parts of Segment 5 of the rail-trail project, which is a 7.5-mile paved path from Davenport to Wilder Ranch State Park that is expected to start construction in spring.
A paved parking lot is expected near Highway 1 and Ocean Street in Davenport as part of the rail-trail project.
A paved parking lot is expected near Highway 1 and Ocean Street in Davenport as part of the rail-trail project. (Tyler Maldonado — Santa Cruz Local file)
Zone 4 includes a rail-trail project to pave a dirt parking lot on the ocean side of Highway 1 near Ocean Street. An excursion train for tourists is included as a potential project in the plan, but a train operator would have to propose such a service, leaders said. (County of Santa Cruz)
In Zone 5, strong public support led to the inclusion of a plan for paved parking and a restroom at Shark Fin Cove, Tidmore said.
In Zone 5, paved parking and a restroom are proposed near Shark Fin Cove. County Parks released this revised map in January. (County of Santa Cruz)
South of Shark Fin Cove, a paved parking lot is planned near Panther and Yellowbank beaches as part of the rail-trail project. (Tyler Maldonado — Santa Cruz Local file)
In Zone 8, State Parks leaders have proposed an improved parking lot and restrooms near Four Mile Beach. County Parks released this revised map in January. (County of Santa Cruz)
In Zone 9 at Wilder Ranch State Park, a granary and adobe building in the cultural preserve could be renovated. Accessibility improvements are planned on the Old Cove Landing Trail. County Parks released this revised map in January. (County of Santa Cruz)