Dawn Kole and Sean Crawford of Ripon fish at the Santa Cruz wharf on March 8, 2021.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Santa Cruz will seek grant funding for multi-use trail, fishing park on the wharf

To secure funding, projects must be within a half-mile of a “critically underserved community” — with few parks or an average household income under $56,982. The average household income in those he surrounding Beach Flats neighborhood is $45,000, according to city estimates.

Santa Cruz city officials got the OK Tuesday night to pursue state funding to expand public space and renovate parts of the city’s municipal wharf.

If awarded funds through the Park Development and Community Revitalization Program, Santa Cruz could get a major funding boost to realize parts of its Wharf Master Plan, which was approved by city council in November.

The two applications approved by city council on Tuesday propose widening the end of the wharf along the water by creating new park space and building a multi-use trail along the eastern edge of the wharf — as well as renovating up to 8,000 square feet of deck and piles.

One of the city’s proposals also would expand the tip of the wharf by nearly an acre and designate it the Santa Cruz Wharf Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Access, Education, and Fishing Park. The Monterey Bay park project is expected to cost between $5 million and $8.5 million.

If funded, the end of the wharf would allow greater public access, with space for fishing and an overlook viewing area with panoramic views and seating, according to the city report.

What additions to the Santa Cruz Wharf could look like.

The 1,100-foot-long, 21-foot-wide multi-use trail for pedestrians and bicyclists would be built using the grant funding, as well as a seven-foot-wide fishing area, seating and educational materials up the eastern side of the wharf. The trail would begin about 500 feet from the wharf entrance and extend to the eastern parking lot.

Money for the grant program comes from Prop 68, a “parks, environment and water” bond measure voters approved in 2018. Under Prop 68, California could issue up to $4 billion in bonds for use on “parks, trails, environmental protection and restoration, water infrastructure, and climate resiliency,” according to a report by Santa Cruz city staff.

The latest round of funding allows local governments to submit applications and compete for part of the more than $254 million available. Projects must cost between $200,000 and $8.5 million and be within a half-mile of a “critically underserved community” — with few parks or an average household income under $56,982 — in order to qualify for funding. The average household income near the wharf is $45,000, according to city estimates.

The grant program is an important source of few-strings-attached funding for Santa Cruz, since it does not require municipalities to provide local matching funds. Santa Cruz has lost at least $21 million in revenues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, City Manager Martín Bernal said Tuesday afternoon.

The Wharf Master Plan is a longterm effort by the city to improve one of the city’s assets in order to make it more profitable and appealing to tourists and locals alike.

The two projects for which the city is seeking grant funding are just part of the work included in the master plan, but would mark a key milestone in wharf renovations, city official say.