Want to know a little more?
Why This Run?
Most populated areas in California have hidden the beauty of
their incredible coastline underneath development. But the
remarkable stretch north of Santa Cruz is exceptional in that
it has remained largely undeveloped agriculture land for centuries.
In the past 5 years the coastal area between Santa Cruz and Davenport (10 miles
to the north) has gained the protection of public ownership. With a joint effort of community
groups and local government, we are creating a phenomenal trail system for our community.
In past years, our event raised critical seed money to help get the rail trail funded.
This year we are raising money to match a federal grant to actually build the trail.
How cool is that!
With community support, we anticipate the trail to be built by 2018!
History of the Area
In the 1860s, two Swiss families acquired two former Spanish land grants,
which stretched from Scott Creek in the north to Laguna Creek in the south. They formed the Coast Dairies & Land Company.
By the 1920s, these families had moved back to Switzerland, but they and their heirs continued to lease land to local farmers and dairy operators.
Much of this stretch of coast remained more or less as it had been in the 19th century. Plans to develop this area in the 1960's
were ultimately quashed by Proposition 20 (1972) and the Coastal Act (1976). In 1998, the Trust for Public Lands acquired the land,
and in 2009 completed the transfer of the land to the State of California, to be managed by the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR).
In addition, in October of 2012, the rail corridor which runs directly through this area, was acquired by the
Santa Cruz Regional Transportation Commission.
Together, this means that the vast majority of land in this area is now publicly owned.
Along the coast, this land has remained primarily in agriculture — and this is appropriate since the historical character
of this area is inextricably interwoven with the area's farms. The farms are also important economically, and of course because they provide
humanity's fuel — food.
But the DPR's focus is public access and recreation. So, while maintaining the agriculture, it also encourages
compatible uses of coastal trails along the ocean and parallel to the railroad corridor for public recreation and transportation.
The goal of the Run by the Sea is to highlight the incredible resource that now lies in the public trust, and to encourage
this and other sustainable recreational uses that allow the broader community to experience the area in harmony with the farms.
The Rail Trail Backstory
The government agency that owns the rail trail corridor (SCCRTC)
is unable to officially condone public use in its current state. But thanks to the SCCRTC's hard work, the area is the likely recipient of
a $4.4 million federal grant to build the necessary infrastructure to open the trail. The
Land Trust of Santa Cruz County
has committed to raise $3 million in matching funds to build the section from Wilder Ranch to Laguna Beach (see the
Master Plan for the Rail Trail
for details), and our run is helping to raise the matching funds.
In the 3 mile section of the rail trail north of Wilder Ranch, there is a well-maintained farm road parallel to the tracks (as far as Scaroni Rd.)
Although this section is not officially open, many people already hike, run and bike along this road.
The only patrol is by State Parks who does not restrict access.
The farmers lease the surrounding farm land from State Parks (but not the roads adjacent to the tracks). Furthermore, the bluff trails are
owned by State Parks and are open to the public.
Here are some images of the farm road/rail trail path from Wilder Ranch to Scaroni Rd. Note that our running event does not use any
of this road since we can't get official permission to do so.
Here are a few images of rail trails in other parts of the country (some have active train service)
that inspire us to want to see our rail trail in this area opened.
Participants often ask why we have a beach crossing in the Run by the Sea. That's because it's currently the only legal way to get from Wilder Ranch to the northern bluff trails.
The current Wilder Ranch State Parks maps show that you can use the rail connector, but these maps are actually indicating trails that are not legally accessible!
Farm trails that aren't adjacent to the tracks are part of Wilder Ranch and are open to recreational use.
Click here to view our full proposal for the Ohlone Rail Trail.
What Does This Run Support?
This year, we are excited to say that the proceeds of this run will go the the
Land Trust of Santa Cruz County's fund to match the federal grant
to build the rail trail. Your race fee will actually be used to build the rail trail!.
In previous years, this event supported groups that helped advocate for the purchase and creation of the coastal rail trail. These include:
- Santa Cruz Friends of the Rail & Trail (FORT) is the community voice for building the 32-mile Coastal Rail Trail. FORT has advocated for over a decade for public acquisition of the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line, and now that the purchase is complete, FORT is working to support the timely construction of the trail. One of FORT's key roles is to enhance the public interest and widespread project support to help our elected officials know that the rail trail is a valuable priority to our community.
- Bike Santa Cruz County began working to promote the concept of a Santa Cruz Rail Trail in the early '90s. Among other things, the group advocates for development of facilities that encourage human-powered transportation.
- Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks is dedicated to the preservation of our area's natural environment and cultural history. Much of the proposed rail trail north of Santa Cruz passes directly through State Parks land.
- Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (SCCRTC)
is the local government agency that acquired the rail property and is tasked with developing rail trail and rail uses.