Opinion: Vote yes on Measure D

A rendering of the proposed pedestrian/bike trail along the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line
(Via Santa Cruz County Greenway)

A trail-only option is the best, most realistic option for our Santa Cruz community. It will preserve our natural landscape, can be built now and doesn’t depend on imagined future funding. Measure D makes sense and is the logical way forward.

Our community needs a solution to the 32-mile eyesore that currently runs from Watsonville to Davenport. The best, most realistic, fundable option is to build a fully accessible trail.

The trail will preserve our natural landscape and showcase the beauty of our coastline. And it can be built now, not in some distant, imagined and improbable future of cash-rich bounty.

The trail will separate bikes and pedestrians, so that it’s safe for all, and also provide commuters an alternative to using cars. It will move us closer to a countywide goal of 20% of commuters on bikes, which will help cut air pollution.

Our opponents’ rail and trail “plan” is a utopian vision with no basis in reality. It simply can’t happen. The funding and population aren’t there in our small county.

The Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) admitted as much last year. The RTC did not accept the passenger rail business plan. The commissioners essentially admitted that the past 10 years of pretending passenger rail was an option was a waste of time and money.

The RTC can’t pay the $1.3 billion a train would cost.

So, the only real question is what type of trail do you want and how soon can we build it?

Our plan — which we call Greenway — offers safe routes to schools and work. The trail has no detours onto unsafe streets, which cuts the risk of accidents and fatalities. It also promotes the health of our community. That’s why more than 200 doctors support Greenway.

The climate crisis is now, and we need to act. We can’t wait decades and hope — despite all evidence pointing in the opposite direction — that a train miracle will occur and people will decide to stop driving cars.

Leading environmentalists support Measure D because it is ecological. It preserves the only forested and coastal corridor left in the county for humans and wildlife. It will be available for future generations who will thank us for our forward-thinking decision not to industrialize the little open space and nature we have left.

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The narrow trail our opponents propose would result in heavy industrialization of the corridor, including concrete and steel retaining walls, fences separating neighborhoods and cutting off beach access, and the elimination of hundreds of heritage trees. The corridor as you know it will be unrecognizable.

This makes no sense.

We started our electoral campaign to build Greenway in 2018. Since then, more than 20,000 voters have signed one of our petitions. The power and inspiration of Greenway comes from grassroots voters organizing and acting to affect change in the community. We are fighting the status quo of inaction and do-nothing politics.

Our opponents claim their trail “is being built.” But in 10 years, only 1.5 miles of trail has been constructed. At this rate, it will take over 200 years to complete. It gets worse. Now hundreds of millions of dollars is needed to finish their trail because costs have escalated dramatically to build 24 new bridges, huge concrete retaining walls and “floating viaducts.”

Watsonville gets almost no trail from our opponents. The trail detours for 5 miles onto San Andreas Road and West Beach Street because the corridor is not wide enough for a trail and train tracks through Harkins Slough. Let’s use the corridor for a trail so Watsonville residents have safe access to their beautiful sloughs and beaches.

Our plan protects and preserves Roaring Camp, including the Beach Train. In fact, the Greenway Initiative applies only from the San Lorenzo River south.

Our opponents claim that Roaring Camp will be cut off from the “national rail network.” Roaring Camp has been cut off since the winter storms of 2017 and will be cut off for the next 25 years because the Capitola trestle is out of service indefinitely and will cost $30 million to replace.

The claim of “deception” by our opponents is nothing more than cheap campaign rhetoric.

Greenway has been fighting for you for the past eight years. Our plan has not changed. It remains the best viable option.

It’s time to put aside the political tribalism that has seeped into our community and make sensible change.

That is what a “yes” vote on Measure D will do. It is a vote for common sense. It’s a vote for a trail we can afford and maintain that will offer beauty, safety, health, climate benefits and a spectacular active transportation asset the whole community will love forever.

Ellen Martinez is a volunteer tutor for the Literacy Program of Santa Cruz County. She has lived in South County for 60 years.

Scott Roseman is a Live Oak resident, founder of New Leaf Community Markets and member of the RTC Bicycle Advisory Committee. He has lived in Santa Cruz County for 45 years.

Lisa Sheridan is a longtime Soquel resident and president of the Santa Cruz Bird Club.

Dr. Casey KirkHart leads a team of physicians and nurses serving low-income Santa Cruz County residents. He has lived in Santa Cruz for seven years.

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