I saw this on the front page of the Santa Cruz Sentinel the other day, and I wanted to jump on my blog right away and make some pithy comments. Fate conspired against me, though, until the quiet moments of Thursday morning.
Long-stalled plans to bring the Union Pacific rail line under public ownership are back on track, local planners say, and the 32 miles of railroad that run from Watsonville to Davenport could be turned over to the county’s transportation agency as soon as October.
To me, this is a no-brainer. We are talking about relatively small amounts of money, especially for a transportation project. Yet, turning this rail line over to public control opens up so many possibilities, in particular the creation of a “rail trail.”
Imagine opening up this entire corridor to foot and bicycle traffic. As a UCSC Student, I used to bicycle from Seacliff (in Aptos) to UC Santa Cruz and back several times per week. It was pretty hectic, because I had to go on major roads, with lots of traffic, and go up and down hills all the time. What a boon it would have been to just hop on the nearby train track and follow a flat path all the way to downtown Santa Cruz.
Or, imagine this: a family wants to go down to Capitola for the afternoon. Rather than hop in the car, they could all hop on their bicycles and pedal a few easy, flat miles down the rail path to get to Capitola Village. Less cars on the road, less pollution, less need for more parking in the Village, and more exercise for the family.
But wait, there’s more! Think about what this could mean for the tourism business. How many B&Bs could easily flourish along the rail trail? Such a trail would open up the county to visitors. Just come to the B&B, park your car, and grab a beach cruiser and explore Santa Cruz, Capitola and miles of Coastline, with all the various beaches – Natural Bridges, New Brighton, Seacliff, Rio del Mar, La Selva, Sunset, Manresa. Wow.
Yep. Buying the rail line and creating the rail trail would be a watershed event, and I’m all for it. For more information, check out the the Santa Cruz Rail Trail Project web site or the project page on AptosCommunityNews.org.