Opinion: Vote yes on Measure D: Let’s build a trail now

A rendering of the proposed trail
(Via YES Greenway)

Measure D is the best chance Santa Cruz County has to build a safe and transit-oriented trail from Watsonville to Davenport. We dismiss the “deceptive” campaign slogans of our opponents and explain the facts and objective reports supporting our view. Greenway pits grassroots citizen activists against those who have held power and been wrong about the rail corridor for 35 years.

Santa Cruz County residents agree we want a trail on the unused rail corridor from Watsonville to Davenport.

It’s been sad and disappointing to drive by the corridor for the past 10 years and see nothing but 100-year-old rusting tracks overgrown with weeds and strewn with debris.

Those against Measure D say they started the work to acquire the corridor and build a trail in 1987 — 35 years ago! In the 10 years since the corridor was actually acquired, they have managed to build only 1.5 of 32 miles of trail.

That’s a record of failure.

Seeing the lack of progress on the trail, a group of concerned citizens got together and created Greenway. Our group began as and remains a grassroots effort focused on creating a feasible and beautiful trail for our community.

Our opponents have behaved badly and unethically during this campaign. Their slogan, which accuses us of being “deceptive,” is nothing more than divisive campaign rhetoric designed by out-of-town political consultants. They offer incomplete and cherry-picked statements to support their accusations.

The truth is, they are engaging in the greatest deception of all.

The impartial memo by the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission counsel published May 5 demonstrates how much our opponents have been misleading the public. RTC counsel answered six questions on Measure D, and all six answers validate Greenway’s long-standing positions. The answers — from an objective government organization — debunk the repeated misinformation our opponents’ campaign has spread.

Our opponents claim we can afford a train, yet their cost estimates have been wildly wrong. The train cost estimates have doubled in just the past five years to $1.3 billion. And we know this isn’t the end of cost increases.

Our opponents claim we can afford their trail, yet funds from a 2016 transportation sales tax that are allocated for a trail will not cover their complex, discontinuous and narrow trail. That will put us back in the “grant cycle,” begging for local, state or federal funds with many more years of delay.

Our opponents claim great environmental benefits for their train and trail plan, but the facts point otherwise.

They claim a train will alleviate Highway 1 traffic jams, yet RTC studies show less than 2% traffic reduction, assuming optimistic train ridership projections are met. More important, the best case for a train is 2045, so don’t expect any climate benefits for 23 years.

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They claim they are environmental, yet their plan destroys vegetation, wildlife habitat and cuts hundreds of heritage trees as it builds out retaining walls, “floating viaducts,” and new bridges to attempt to squeeze a trail next to the tracks on a corridor too narrow to accommodate both.

Our opponents claim that saving the rail line through railbanking “doesn’t work,” yet the RTC is on record planning to do just that. And hundreds of communities nationwide have used railbanking to keep options open for rail lines that are no longer in use. In fact, communities have converted 24,000 miles of unused railroads to greenways, with another 8,000 miles in progress.

It defies common sense that railbanking can’t be done in Santa Cruz County when there are so many examples to the contrary.

Our opponents claim Roaring Camp will be hurt, yet Roaring Camp is expressly “preserved and protected” by the Greenway Initiative language. Roaring Camp’s business will continue to thrive with its park and Beach Train.

The Greenway Initiative is a debate between a grassroots coalition of activist residents dealing in facts, and the deliberate misinformation and cynical campaign tactics of a group that has been in power, yet consistently wrong, for 35 years.

It’s time to call their bluff and do what the community wants: build a safe, healthy, affordable, and pro-environment trail now.

Please vote yes on D on June 7.

Nancy Yellin is a retired registered nurse, disability rights activist and former member of the county’s Disability Advisory Committee. She has lived in Santa Cruz County for 36 years and currently lives in Aptos.

Buzz Anderson is a fourth-generation Santa Cruz County native, author of the local historical novel “Five Hundred Moons,” and owns a small business with locations in Santa Cruz, Capitola and Watsonville. He lives in Live Oak.

Nadene Thorne has called Santa Cruz her home for over 60 years and recently retired as a technical writer with a focus on environmental concerns. She lives in Santa Cruz.

Robert Stephens is a UCSC graduate, former chair of California Audubon, former board chair of the Santa Cruz County Land Trust and farms at the Elkhorn Ranch. He has lived in Santa Cruz County for 53 years and currently lives in Aptos.

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