An aerial view looking toward some of the Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Open trails at Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument by next summer? What to know on BLM’s latest move

The Bureau of Land Management finalized its use plan Wednesday for the 5,800-acre area north of Santa Cruz, and the head of the local nonprofit that’s partnering with the agency to build trails on the property hopes it could be open for hiking, biking and more by next summer.

Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument, the 5,800-acre nature expanse eight miles north of Santa Cruz, came one step closer to opening to the public Wednesday as the Bureau of Land Management finalized its use plan for the area.

“The goal right now is to begin trail construction this fall,” said Matt De Young, executive director of Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Stewardship, the Santa Cruz nonprofit that’s partnering with BLM to build the trails. “[We hope] to have it open by summer 2022.”

Now that the management plan has been approved, it will enter a 30-day appeals period, after which time — unless significant protests are raised — the plan will be greenlit and construction can begin on trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding.

The appeal process is “a final opportunity for members of the public who feel like their concerns have not been addressed, and that are potentially harmed by a decision within the plan [to] appeal specific decisions,” said BLM Central Coast Field Manager Ben Blom, whose office approved the plan.

Fundraising for trail-building is still in progress; De Young said the cost is expected to be about $2 million, with just over $1 million raised so far.

The finalized plan will include 27 miles of new trails, and also proposes pedestrian/bicycle connections to San Vicente Redwoods and the North Coast Rail Trail.

Certain aspects of the project remain controversial. Residents close to the property have expressed concern about the “4 Ts”: traffic, trash, trauma and (lack of) toilets.

“That continues to be the most difficult part of this plan,” Blom said. “There’s not necessarily a silver bullet for where we put parking, in terms of addressing those 4Ts, [but] we’re fully committed to trying to work with the community throughout this whole implementation process to try to address their concerns.”

Part of the 5,800-acre Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument north of Santa Cruz.
(Jim Pickering / Bureau of Land Management)

The Cotoni-Coast Dairies land was donated to BLM by the Trust for Public Land in 2014, and President Barack Obama designated it as a National Monument in 2017 — effectively paving the way to open the property to locals and tourists — during his final month in office. BLM has since been working to create a use plan that strikes a balance between competing needs for public access, wildlife and habitat conservation, preservation of cultural resources, and the interests of property owners and nearby residents.

“Today’s accomplishment for Cotoni-Coast Dairies owes its success to the tremendous involvement by partners, organizations and individuals who helped inform the decision-making process,” Blom said. “At the heart of this planning effort is community-based conservation and citizen-centered stewardship, which have a longstanding history for this remarkable property.”