Castle Rock Park, Bicycles, CalTrans and Greenhouse Gasses

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Date(s) - 12/31/2019
12:00 am

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Greetings, my name is Dave Anderson and I have been an SSA board member for over 5 years now. I am writing not in my capacity as a board member but as a concerned resident and member of SSA. The views expressed here are my own. In part this is because it is my belief that this issue is too contentious for the SSA to take a single position and claim to have looked out for the interests of our community. In greater part it is because I can speak more freely on the matter in an unofficial capacity.

You will see other posts in this same space where other members have an opportunity to voice their opinions. If you would like to post on the subject please submit your text to webmaster@southskyline.org If you would like to offer me personal feedback you may contact me at ssa.road.reports@gmail.com.

To place me in context with this issue, I have lived within 20 miles of here my whole life, enjoyed Castle Rock Park for most of my life, and about 8 years ago have come to live on Highway 9 a stones throw from the Skyline to the Sea Trail.

By now most of you will have heard of the Castle Rock State Park Change-in-Use plan: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=28392 Much of this information has been available since the 2010 general plan was published ( https://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/1324/files/CRSP Draft Trails Plan.pdf ) Part of what is causing this to come to the fore again is that parts of this plan were contingent on the construction of extra parking — which has now been completed and christened “The Kirkwood Entrance”. Per the Draft trails plan there are 11 trail plans that were expected to change with the completion of that parking area.

So now we find ourselves with a deadline of Feb 1, 2020 to get our input to trails@parks.ca.gov (really best to think of it as 1/1/2020) and the FUD I’m hearing around this is epic. Don’t get me wrong — while I do personally agree that bicycles should not be allowed to “spoil” the park I don’t think total exclusion is the only viable option. Clearly most of the trails are not suitable for the thrill seeking rider.

To the point: Essentially my very own personal opinion/position is that the Superintendent should open only the Saratoga Toll Road and Beekhuis Road to bicycle traffic. This would provide a peaceful, safe route around the most dangerous parts of Highway 9 with a possible escape route. This toll road runs from near 35 along 9 to well below the 15mph hairpin South of 236 and the narrow twisty section beyond that.

The route is easy to see schematically on p.31 of the 2010 Draft Trails Plan. From there you can find it easily enough in other maps in that document.

It must be noted here that this is essentially a service road for much of its length. The toll road was completed in 1870 and carried the heavy transport of the time, and mixed traffic for generations afterward. It is still frequented by heavy trucks and equipment. This road is not fragile, in need of fortification, or likely to fall victim to “high impact activities such as mountain biking”. It looks nothing like the videos of for example the John Nichols trail which have been presented as strawman arguments against all bicycle access. It’s a working road.

Also note that the 2010 draft trail plan already states in section 3.3.4.2 that the Saratoga Toll road and Beekhuis Road will be “considered” for bicycle access (among 7 others). No mention is made here of any fragility of these roads or any need for improvements. Personally I would like to see only the Toll Road and Beekhuis considered, and not modified for high speed bicycling but maintained as fire trails/access roads.

My reasoning for this is articulated well enough in this email that I posted to the SSA board on this subject on April 10, some emphasis added(sharp-eyed readers will note that this was my position at a date prior to the contentious SSA letter that was rescinded, and I still stand by the words):

As of this writing, there are no good bicycle routes between Saratoga Gap and Big Basin, San Lorenzo Valley, etc., except for Highway 9, which is extremely dangerous for bicycles, especially traveling uphill. Please consider opening up some route, preferably via one or more of the old toll roads, so that bicyclists can travel between these areas without grave risk to life and limb. Current alternatives are to travel many miles north to Alpine Road, through La Honda and San Gregorio or many miles South to Bear Creek Road which is no safer than Highway 9. Caltrans claims the following in its Class IV Bikeway Guidance document( http://www.dot.ca.gov/design/stp/dib/dib89-01.pdf ):

It is the goal of the State to increase the number of trips Californians take by bicycling, walking, and other forms of active transportation in order to help meet the State’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals, improve Californians’ health by helping more people be active, and stimulate the economy. Bicycle facilities are a vital part of the transportation infrastructure that is used by many to commute to and from work and other destinations and provide alternatives to vehicles that otherwise would transport citizens across California’s roads and highways.

The west side of Highway 9 in this area consists of private property including over 7,000 acres of Timber harvest land that is off-limits to the public. The east side of Highway 9 is mostly private property except for Castle Rock Park. This process of determining allowable usage for this public resource(CSRP trails) is the last chance we have in the foreseeable future to create a route which may help to achieve the goals set out by the DOT, goals which many of the local residents support in broad terms.

To put it as plainly as possible, saying “no” to this proposed usage of the toll road is saying that you don’t want a safe, environmentally friendly alternative to travel by car through this corridor.

It is true that there are many other places to ride bicycles in the Santa Cruz mountains. CRSP is unique in that it has the potential to serve as the only safe through route for many miles around.

Whatever is done it should undergo periodic review so it can evolve as new factors or new understandings come into play.

I sincerely thank you for taking the time to read this.

Dave A.
ssa.road.reports@gmail.com
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If you agree then please make your voice heard at trails@parks.ca.gov

If you don’t agree, please make your voice heard at trails@parks.ca.gov

The point is, if you feel strongly about this issue, now is the time to be heard.

Below is a template you can use to help craft an email to you can send to trails@parks.ca.gov if you happen to agree this is the most pressing change needed, or craft your own to suit what you need to say.

Dear State Parks,

[Introduce yourself, mention which area parks you frequent and how you travel between them]

I have recently learned that CRSP is considering what trail usage is appropriate for mountain biking use. I want to weigh in on this because it seems to be a highly polarized issue and I am not finding my voice in either of the extremes presented. These extremes seem to be either “maintain status quo” or “gain access to more than is truly reasonable”.

I would like to see a bicycle travel corridor off the highway and suitable for a broad age and skill range opened up between Saratoga Gap and San Lorenzo Valley/Big Basin.

Highway 9 alongside the park is unsafe for bicycles, even with the recent changes. This is especially true uphill, more so for children.

There are many terrific parks, trails and other potential destinations for bicycles that are only practical to travel between via car or truck. Please open this vital corridor so we can travel between these parks without needing to burn fossil fuel to do so.

The Skyline to the Sea Trail and some other trails in the park were designed for hikers and, as they currently exist, are not suitable for mountain bikes. That much is obvious to the most casual observer. Please don’t conflate such fragile trails with access roads as the anti-bicycle extremists have been doing.

California State Parks, according to the policy Appendix F of the 2000 CRSP General Plan, should be making any trail that could be described as a dirt road 60 inches wide or better accessible to bicycles, absent extenuating circumstances as outlined in that Appendix. I contend that opening only the Saratoga Toll Road Trail and Beekhuis Road trails to mountain bikes would satisfy both the need for a transportation corridor as well as serve to satisfy the policy expectation that at least some park roads be accessible to bicycles.

Thank you,

[Your Name and Town]
[Contact info suggested but optional]