Public Access Planning for the CEMEX Redwoods

CEMEX meeting

Special report by Mark Davidson, MBoSC President

One prospect that gets me excited about local mountain bike advocacy is the opportunities presented by the CEMEX redwoods property. This 8,500 acre parcel was owned by the multi-national company CEMEX but had recently been purchased by 4 land trust partners with the goal of conservation and recreation. This parcel and the adjacent Coast Dairies property (managed by the BLM) represents nearly 14,000 contiguous acres between Bonny Doon and Davenport. Linking these two properties with a trails system could provide for long descents with a 2,500 foot elevation drop. Imagine a ten to fifteen mile ride from Empire Grade to the beach through spectacular redwood forests with sweeping ocean views within 10 years.

The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County is responsible for the public access plan and have started engaging recreational stake holders, the communities of Davenport and Bonny Doon and the public soliciting feedback. On Thursday March 6th, I attended the CEMEX Recreational Stakeholders meeting hosted and facilitated by the Land Trust at their office in Santa Cruz. This meeting was well attended by representatives from diverse recreational and neighborhood interests which included: mountain bikers (me), Bonny Doon residents, birders, hikers, equestrians, the Sierra Club, mushroom gatherers, Big Creek Lumber, Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks and the BLM. This was an opportunity for leaders of the various interest groups to come together to build consensus on the types of recreational activities appropriate for the property and to hash out potential conflicts. The format allowed for all voices and points of view to be heard. The discussion was respectful and civil.

The great news is that multi-use trails and mountain biking access throughout the entire property has been considered and is part of the public access plan. None of the stakeholders objected or pushed back on that point. I was also happy to learn that undeveloped camping is considered as part of the public access plan. Beyond that, I asked for single use trails (mountain bike only, hiker/horse only) and one way directional trails should be considered to mitigate conflict. Also, events like races, festivals and commercial activities like photo shoots and (mtb) product testing should be considered. The objective is to open this property to the public in October 2015.

There were several concerns about trail conflict. About 600 out of 1,300 of those surveyed expressed this as a concern. This point was best illustrated by the comments from the Sierra Club hike organizer who suggested that the existing trail network should be re-used to minimize environmental impact and that bikes/horses should be constrained to dirt roads or wide trails while leaving single track hiker only. I didn’t think he was aware of the contemporary thinking about trail design and the reality of land stewardship. Fortunately, I had a very civil conversation with him at the end of the evening and my pitch boiled down to “great trail design can mitigate use conflict”.

I used the point that “historical trails are not sacred” and we should not be shy about decommissioning old unsustainable trails – which were designed for resource extraction. Instead, we should focus on purposely built recreational trails that can be designed to take into account interesting historical and natural features, mitigate use conflict and minimize erosion. Also, redesigning and rebuilding a trail network is relatively “cheap” so we should build a trail system in the best interests of the community rather than trying to fit the community into a legacy trail system and deal with the ensuing problems. I used the case study about the Fern trail vs. Emma McCrary trail – an “inherited” trail with problems vs a designed recreational trail. I also made the case that one way and single use trails can further mitigate conflict. He seemed to think that I had some good solutions to his concerns. Hopefully, I left him a little more enlightened and he can report a positive outcome back to the local Sierra Club chapter.

Just because multi-use trails will be allowed does not mean that mountain biking will be allowed everywhere. There will be constraints based on the current conditions like sensitive habitats and mitigation of use conflict. The more that the mountain biking community are engaged with the process, the more likely we can get the trail experience that we desire.

Over the past several years, the mountain biking community has grown in numbers and so has our capacity for raising funds, building trails and creating the political will for land use and trail planning. We have an influential role in the land use community and we can set a positive example of leadership by considering the goals and concerns of all interests and ensuring that land use planning is sensitive to their needs. We are becoming a positive force in improving the quality of life for this community. The momentum is in our favor and I’m asking for your help to support our efforts and remain engaged.

Here is what can you do to be engaged in the CEMEX public access process

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