Arana Gulch Multi-Use Trail Opens at Last!

Crowds gathered on January 14th to celebrate the ribbon cutting of the Arana Gulch Multi-Use Trail, hosted by the City of Santa Cruz. Speakers included Santa Cruz Mayor Don Lane, Supervisor John Leopold, Supervisor Ryan Coonerty, and City Public Works Director Mark Dettle, all of whom extolled the benefits of the trail and the years of cooperation and compromise that led to its completion. The ribbon cutting itself was performed by Lynn Gallagher and John Daugherty, two activists whose work was critical to getting the trail approved. The event was a joyful celebration of a long and often difficult community process. 

History of the Trail

People Power has a long history with the Arana Gulch Trail project—we have advocated for a trail through Arana Gulch since our founding in 1991. At the time, there were plans for a road through the gulch, which was not popular with neighbors. People Power worked with people who lived nearby to come up with a plan for a path, and then with Public Works staff to develop a more detailed proposal. Despite nearly unanimous community support, the path was not supported by City Council, and the project was stalled for many years. In 2006 the Arana Gulch Draft Master Plan was finally published, including plans for a bike/pedestrian path. 

After the Master Plan was completed, People Power lobbied to win City Council’s approval of the trail and supported a campaign led by volunteers Charlie Dixon and Paul Schoelhamer to win approval from the California Coastal Commission. This was a long, difficult process that required ongoing community support, and was complicated by opposition from environmental groups that were concerned about impacts on sensitive habitat and the endangered Santa Cruz tarplant. Both sides were required to make compromises in order to see the trail to completion, and the project you see today is a scaled-back and lower-impact version of what was originally proposed. The Arana Gulch Master Plan includes a management plan to protect the tarplant, which does best when competition from other grasses is minimized. In recent history, this has been accomplished by livestock grazing. Cows were introduced to Arana Gulch in February and will be there through June.  A Better Bike Connection The Arana Gulch Trail provides a key connection for people on bikes traveling between Capitola, Live Oak and Santa Cruz.

Currently, cyclists traveling from Santa Cruz to Capitola have two options: Soquel Avenue/Drive, a high-traffic street which was recently the site of a cyclist fatality, or the beach route along East Cliff crossing the harbor bridge (Murray/Eaton), which is often described as a scarey spot for cyclists. The new trail gives cyclists the third option of taking Broadway Avenue to Brommer Street. Broadway and Brommer both have bike lanes and are relatively low-traffic streets that make for a direct and safer ride. In order to encourage more bicycling, we need a complete network of safe facilities that make it easy to reach major destinations within the county. The Arana Gulch Trail expands that network by connecting two safe routes, and provides a great new option for cyclists traveling across town.