Updated 8/7/2023 by Friends of the Rail & Trail
The 2024 Supervisorial Election presents both a risk and an opportunity for any Rail and Trail projects in unincorporated Santa Cruz County. The five-person County Board of Supervisors has executive, legislative, and even some judicial power in the unincorporated County. This means that the Board of Supervisors has power over any Rail & Trail projects outside of the incorporated Cities of Watsonville, Capitola, and Santa Cruz.
One example is the combined Segments 8 and 9 project. This project is politically complicated because while the right of way is owned by the Regional Transportation Commission, this trail project starts in the City of Santa Cruz at the Wharf and then crosses into the unincorporated County at the Yacht Harbor ending at 17th Ave in Live Oak. This means that the Santa Cruz City Council, the Regional Transportation Commission, and the County Board of Supervisors will all need to sign off on a formal Cooperation Agreement in order to move the project forward.
The City of Santa Cruz is a strong supporter and is the lead agency for the project. On the Regional Transportation Commission, support for the project outweighs opposition. But the five-person County Board of Supervisors is a place where opponents have the potential to put a wrench into the works.
Three out of the currently-sitting five members of the Board have expressed varying degrees of opposition to the Rail Trail in the past: Manu Koenig, Bruce McPherson, and Zach Friend. Because Supervisor Friend's home is near the tracks he must recuse himself at the Board of Supervisor’s: at the RTC he has appointed former Greenway Board Member Robert Quinn to vote as his alternate.
All of the Rail Trail projects in the unincorporated County, such as segments 10, 11, and 12 in the Capitola and Aptos areas are equally vulnerable to opposition from the Board of Supervisors.
Although the upcoming election is important for our projects, FORT is a non-profit organization and we cannot take stands to support or oppose candidates. We can only point out their voting records or their stated positions. It will be essential for people to follow these races, understand the candidates’ positions, and vote in March.
If the Board of Supervisors votes against the fully-funded Segments 8 & 9 project, it would mean walking away from millions of dollars of state grant money and sabotaging an incredibly popular and beneficial trail that is going to connect the City of Santa Cruz to Live Oak. We remain strongly hopeful that all four of the voting Supervisors will support the project, no matter what their past positions on the Rail Trail have been. Friends of the Rail & Trail is following this issue closely. You can be sure we will update you on any progress or challenges, and alert you as to how you can help move Segments 8 and 9 forward.
For updates on the other trail segments see our evergreen trail article: Trail Updates