Rail-trail segment to finish in fall

Expected to finish in September, Segment 7 of the rail trail connects California Street to Beach Street near the wastewater treatment plant in Santa Cruz. (Stephen Baxter — Santa Cruz Local file)

Rail-trail updates

  • Santa Cruz: A paved path from California Street to Beach Street in Santa Cruz is expected to finish construction in mid-September, said Ricardo Valdes, a Santa Cruz senior engineer. The project is part of Segment 7 of the Coastal Rail Trail that was initially anticipated to finish in February. Weather and other problems have delayed it, authorities said.
  • North Coast: A groundbreaking event for the North Coast rail-trail projects will take place at noon June 20 at Wilder Ranch State Park, 1401 Coast Road, Santa Cruz. The North Coast rail trail will be 7.5 miles of paved bike and walking path from Wilder Ranch to Davenport. New paved parking lots and restrooms are expected at Panther and Yellowbank beaches and near Davenport Main Beach at Highway 1, wrote Shannon Munz, spokesperson for the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission. Read more from Santa Cruz Local and the RTC.
  • Santa Cruz County: Regional Transportation Commission staff will provide information and gather feedback on potential passenger rail vehicles and constraints of the route. A virtual open house is online through July 18, and two in-person open houses are scheduled: 6-7:30 p.m. Monday, June 24 at Civic Plaza Community Room, 275 Main St., Watsonville and 6-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 25 at Live Oak Grange, 1900 17th Ave., Live Oak.

—Stephen Baxter

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Leaf blower ban to be considered

At Santa Cruz City Hall, the city council is set to adopt the Fiscal Year 2025 budget at its June 11 meeting. (Stephen Baxter — Santa Cruz Local file)

1:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 11 / Online and at 809 Center St., Santa Cruz

The Santa Cruz City Council on June 11 will consider banning the use of gasoline-powered leaf blowers. The potential ban follows a new state law that prohibits the sale of new gas-powered leaf blowers and a February resolution to phase them out in Santa Cruz County. If adopted, the city law would start Jan. 1 and staff would seek funding to provide financial assistance to residents and businesses to purchase electric-powered leaf blowers.

Noise pollution and greenhouse gas emissions were the primary reasons for the ban. The ban would have some exceptions to allow continued use, including for properties larger than 10 acres and some city parks.

Santa Cruz city budget to be adopted

Separately, the Santa Cruz City Council is set to adopt the city’s Fiscal Year 2025 budget at its June 11 meeting. The $432 million budget is the city’s first budget since the start of the coronavirus pandemic that does not include any state or federal pandemic money, according to a city staff report.

The council will also consider approval of a proposed budget for the Water Department. It outlines $58 million in capital improvement projects including replacement of the decades-old, 9.5-mile Newell Creek Pipeline that brings water from Loch Lomond Reservoir to the water treatment plant. The first phase of construction is expected to begin in March and cost $41 million.

—Nik Altenberg

To participate: Join on Zoom or call 669-900-9128, meeting ID 946 8440 1344. To comment ahead of the meeting, email [email protected] by 5 p.m. Monday. The meeting will be broadcast on Comcast Channel 25.


Watsonville council to weigh budget

Watsonville Police Chief Jorge Zamora, in a gray suit, speaks during a Watsonville City Council meeting on Tuesday.

Watsonville Police Chief Jorge Zamora, in gray suit, speaks during a Watsonville City Council meeting in February. (Jesse Kathan — Santa Cruz Local file)

5:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 11 / 275 Main St., top floor, Watsonville

The Watsonville City Council June 11 is set to consider a $268 million draft budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. 

Because of rising salaries and pensions, city staff balanced the budget by not filling some vacant positions. Similar to the City of Santa Cruz, Capitola and the County of Santa Cruz, mounting pension costs until about 2030 are a long-term concern, Watsonville staff wrote.

The budget also includes:

  • $12.8 million to improve Ramsay Park, including federal Covid-relief money.
  • $1.65 million to stabilize the Pajaro River Levee adjacent to the Watsonville Wastewater Plant.
  • An additional half-time librarian position.

New nature center at Ramsay Park

The Watsonville City Council is also set to call for bids to build a new nature center, picnic area and renovated amphitheater at Ramsay Park. The facilities are part of a master plan for the park adopted in 2020.

  • The 3,5000-square-foot nature center is expected to have educational exhibits on environmental topics like water conservation and climate action, along with a multipurpose room, storage and office space.
  • The revamped amphitheater is set to include new walkways, ramps, stairs and planters.

The project will be funded with federal Covid-relief money and Measure R, a half-cent sales tax approved by city voters in 2022. Engineers estimate the project will cost $6.14 million.

—Jesse Kathan

To participate: Attend at 275 Main St., Watsonville or view online on the city’s website. To comment ahead of the meeting, email [email protected].


Art event at Big Basin state park

State Parks Communication Coordinator Sky Biblin talks to participants at a prior Big Basin Art About. (Cynthia Siegel)

10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 15 / Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Highway 236

A multimedia art exhibition will take place at Big Basin Redwoods State Park on June 15 that highlights the park’s recovery from the CZU Lightning Complex Fire in 2020. Much of Big Basin remains closed while crews rebuild trails. The art event is part of a larger effort to reimagine the park as it is rebuilt.

  • State Parks commissioned 18 artists to bring to life the past, present and future of the park, State Parks staff said. 
  • The artists camped at the park in 2023 and learned about the park’s history, fire ecology, Indigenous history, nature and recreation at the park. 
  • The June 15 exhibition will show off the artists’ music, poetry, painting, sketches, ceramics, wood carving and mixed multi-media projects inspired by the park. 

The event includes guided art walks, kids hikes and cash-only food trucks. Parking is limited and expected to fill early. Santa Cruz Metro will provide free bus rides to the event from Scotts Valley Transit Center and stops along Route 35B.

—Stephen Baxter

Santa Cruz Local journalists wrote these briefs and previews for our weekly newsletter. Want to receive these local updates, a preview of recent articles and more in your inbox each Sunday? Sign up for our free newsletter.

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Stephen Baxter is a co-founder and editor of Santa Cruz Local. He covers Santa Cruz County government.

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Nik Altenberg is a copy editor and fact checker for Santa Cruz Local. Altenberg has a bachelor’s in Latin American and Latinx Studies from UC Santa Cruz.

Reporter / California Local News Fellow

Jesse Kathan is a staff reporter for Santa Cruz Local through the California Local News Fellowship. They hold a master's degree in science communications from UC Santa Cruz.