Santa Cruz County Rail & Trail: Let’s Build It!

Rail & Trail Within the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail Network

Now that the Santa Cruz Branch Line is publicly owned (by the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission), students, commuters, and visitors are eager for a rail trail and passenger rail service in the coastal rail corridor.

The proposed Coastal Rail Trail will be a paved, multi-use path set within the 32-mile coastal rail corridor, spanning Santa Cruz County from Davenport to Watsonville and form an important part of the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail Network.  It will provide a scenic, car-free, and convenient path for walking, biking, and wheelchair use — just about any form of active travel by people of all ages. The trail will be adjacent to and separated from train service to maximize sustainable transportation in this corridor.

Who is FORT?

Santa Cruz Friends of the Rail & Trail (FORT) is the community voice for building the 32-mile Coastal Rail Trail. We have 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.  FORT is a community-based group that is fiscally sponsored by Ecology Action, and can accept tax-deductible contributions support our work.

petition-buttonSign the Santa Cruz County Coastal Rail Trail Petition Today!


A Coastal Rail Trail Will Connect Our Communities

The Coastal Rail Trail will be a public asset that will improve the quality of life for Santa Cruz County residents and visitors alike. The Trail runs within one mile of 42 local schools, 88 parks and 50% of our county’s population, connecting many key destinations. Separate from car traffic and nearly level, the Trail will provide an accessible way for residents and visitors alike to enjoy the Monterey Bay. By giving people a safe, attractive and fun place to walk and bike, we will improve community health, boost our local economy, and enhance our environment. The Coastal Rail Trail will make our county a more sustainable and livable community.

The Coastal Rail Trail: let’s build it!

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Accelerating the Rail Trail: We Need Your Help!

WE DID IT! In the past 30 days, the Rail Trail project has put itself on the map! The final Master Plan is approved, the EIR adopted and a total of $5.3 Million for Rail Trail projects was awarded by the Santa Cruz Regional Transportation Commission to construct trail segments in the Cities of Santa Cruz, Watsonville and on East Cliff Drive. Details here.

Ecology Action and Friends of the Rail and Trail are building partnerships and fundraising to accelerate the project. Please consider an end of the year donation to support us in getting the whole trail built and soon!

Donate online  here and select “Santa Cruz Rail Trail Project” from the drop down menu.


Mail your check made payable to:

Ecology Action, Santa Cruz Rail Trail Project
877 Cedar Street Suite 240
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

We think you’ll agree that this project moving forward is better than any gift under the tree.  We  look forward to an exciting 2014 for all Rail Trail supporters!

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Learn More About Rails With Trails

Harbor Drive near San Diego Convention Center

Rail with trails is a successful model in many parts of the United States and the world! In Santa Cruz County, rail with trail will give us the best of both worlds: a world-class rail trail along the Monterey Bay, as well as freight and passenger rail. All of the above, please! It’s important to remember that trains are public transportation that reduce carbon emissions and help people of all economic classes to get around. In Santa Cruz County, the rail line will serve as the backbone of an integrated transportation system and eventually allow us to connect to high-speed rail at Gilroy.

Follow these links for more information about successful rails with trails:

American Trails

Rails to Trails Conservancy




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Rail Trail Top News Story of 2013

The Santa Cruz Sentinel’s Newsmakers of the Year included the Sanctuary Scenic Trail Master plan as one of the big stories of the year.

Reporter Jason Hoppin does a nice job of summarizing the history and future of the rail trail and points out that “…the plan was almost universally lauded when released in October. Using the 32-mile Branch Rail Line as a backbone, the trail will take users from the vistas of the North Coast to the strawberry fields of South County, all while keeping them safely tucked off the county’s buzzing roadways.”

We applaud the Sentinel for their coverage of this important story and we couldn’t agree more!

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RTC Approves Trail Master Plan

By a 9-3 vote, the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) approved the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail Network Master Plan, a trail network that contains the coastal rail trail. Read coverage in the Santa Cruz Sentinel

Artist rendering courtesy of SCC Regional Transportation Commission

Local bike and environmental advocates have hailed the decision as a major step forward. The Master Plan provides a vision for the trail network, much of which will coexist with an active rail line. Though rail services are not detailed in this document, it is expected that passenger rail will follow once necessary upgrades are made to the tracks and trestles.

The coastal rail trail is viewed by many as critical infrastructure that will give students, visitors, seniors, and commuters a healthy, scenic way of moving around the County. “The Master Plan offers a well thought out guide to developing the trail network while keeping the active rail line, and that’s a win for everyone” said David Wright, Board Member of Santa Cruz County Friends of the Rail & Trail. “The Commissioners have opened the door to local municipalities, like Santa Cruz, Watsonville, and Capitola, to begin planning trail segments.”

Several farmers raised objections to having cyclists and pedestrians, some with pets, travelling past their farms. Others pointed out that animals traverse local farms all the time anyway and that the trail didn’t present any significant change.

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Sign the Rail Trail Petition!

Please click here to sign the petition in support of the Coastal Rail Trail!

190Please click the link, above, to urge the Cities of Santa Cruz, Watsonville and Capitola, the County of Santa Cruz and the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission to add the design and construction of the Coastal Rail Trail to their Capital Improvement Project lists and make funding the Rail Trail a top priority.

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Friends visit Oregon OC&E Trail

oregon2 oregon1Rail Trail Friends Debbie Bulger and Richard Stover visited Oregon recently and experienced the 80-mile OC&E Trail. Richard took these photos which remind us of another successful rail trail (of course Santa Cruz County will have rail WITH trail, keeping the value of rail public transit).

Read more about the OC&E trail.

The OC&E rail trail begins in Klamath Falls and heads northeast and provides access to camping, hotels, and more. This trail uses a former rail corridor. There are only hotels at the start of the 80 mile trail in Klamath Falls. Most of the trail is through very rural country with few services. The camping is about halfway through the trail. The OC&E runs Klamath Falls to Bly & Sycan Marsh. Only the first 7 miles are paved. Restroom and camping are at mile 32.5. The trail is one of Oregon’s State Parks.

Photos by Richard Stover

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Rail Trail a Bargain at $127m

176The SCC RTC expects trail development along the branch line to exceed $127 million. Sound like a lot of money? We think it’s a bargain for the 50 miles of trail that connects 88 local parks, 42 schools, and over half of the county’s population. For perspective, here’s a cost comparison of other Transportation projects:

  • $21 Million for one mile of highway one auxillary lane construction
  • $32 million for Metro bus operations annual cost
  • $12 million for highway one widening Environmental Impact Report (this is just a report)

Transportation infrastructure projects are expensive but with the cost of the Coastal Rail Trail comes many  benefits including increased safe biking and walking routes to local children to get to 42 schools that are one mile from the rail corridor; increased eco-tourism from visitors using the trail as their are coastal and access to 88 parks within a mile of the corridor; more healthy exercise opportunities for families and seniors, increase in real estate values of homes near the Rail Trail.

Click here to read the RTC Master Plan.

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City of Santa Cruz Approves Rail Trail Construction

10/22/13 – The Santa Cruz City Council unanimously voted to seek funding for Segment 7 of the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail, an important step toward building the coastal rail trail. Segment 7 of the trail begins at Natural Bridges State Beach and ends at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

Santa Cruz city residents turned out for the Council meeting on Tuesday to express their support for the rail trail, supported by many letters and emails from people supporting the project.

The vote authorizes the City to contribute $1 million to the design and construction of the trail, a 20% match for the estimated $4 million project. The City will now apply for funding from the SCC Regional Transportation Commission.

To support the effort, Friends of the Rail and Trail, People Power, Micah Posner, and Fred Keeley raised some $140k in private pledge matching funds. Sponsors including including local bike industry companies Easton bell sports, Santa Cruz bikes, ibis and Fox pledged funding. Other local donors include Kelly’s French bakery and developer Joe Appenrodt. Over 50 individual donors contributed to the pledges.

“It is great to see the city applying for a longer section with high residency concentration, many activity centers that will serve a broad spectrum of the community” said Piet Canin, Board Member with Santa Cruz County Friends of the Rail & Trail. “We’re very pleased with the City’s actions.”

Santa Cruz Sentinel report

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FORT Gets Busy at Bike 2 Work Day

Bike to Work 2013

Bike to Work 2013

Santa Cruz County Friends of the Rail and Trail spent the morning at a busy Bike to Work day on 10/10/13, informing bike commuters about the rail trail. In particular, participants were asked to contact their local municipalities (Santa Cruz, Capitola, or Watsonville) to let council members know that they will need to work with the SCC RTC to get the rail trail built.

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