by Ben Cook, Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz
Over this past winter MBOSC partnered with the City of Santa Cruz to design and build a pedestrian-only trail in Delaveaga Park to connect the Prospect Heights neighborhood with the Santa Cruz Shakespeare outdoor theater venue. The trail replaced a user-created trail that had some erosion and accessibility issues. Parts of the old trail were too steep for many trail users and were experiencing accelerated erosion. MBOSC worked with MBOSC volunteers and City staff to construct a more gradual replacement trail armored with steps, retaining walls, and landings designed to resist erosion and allow users to walk the trail comfortably.
MBOSC’s volunteer base sets us apart as a trail building force within the community of Santa Cruz. Not only did MBOSC’s members help break ground en masse on the Santa Cruz Shakespeare connector trail during or Delaveage Dig Day, but you also showed up individually during weekdays at critical moments. Building rock structures is burly and technical work, requiring both brains and brawn. All together, we carried, placed, chiseled, or otherwise manipulated about 10 tons of boulders ranging in weight from 30 lbs to over 300 lbs (not to mention 6-8 tons of base- and drain-rock). On half a dozen occasions, I anticipated working by myself when City Parks staff were away tending to the many issues related to the extended winter. Miraculously, MBOSC volunteers “just popped in” at the right moment, and stayed for several hours at a time, helping to wheelbarrow, roll, and lever rocks into place for the trail’s many steps and wall rocks. I would especially like to thank Michael Kinsler, MBOSC member and volunteer, who gave 60 hours of his time over the duration of the project. Thanks also to Dirk Wollscheid, Tom Wilson, Connie Wilson, Tom Eagleton, Andrea Lee, and Delaveaga Dig Day participants. Another special thanks goes to the Ponderosa High School student and teacher volunteers along with Ariel Hunter at the Museum of Natural History who collectively contributed 100 hours of their time to the construction of the trail. The construction of the Shakespeare Connector Trail was truly a community effort.
So why would MBOSC build a pedestrian-only trail? Aren’t we all about mountain bike access? MBOSC recognizes that trails are links in the broader trail network, and that individual trail users and user groups are all connected by that network. MBOSC believes that working to improve one trail ultimately benefits all trail users and the community as a whole. Building pedestrian-only trails gives on-foot users the experience they are seeking, and ultimately improves mountain bikers’ chances of gaining access to the kinds of trails that mountain bikers like to ride.