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Celebrating National Public Works Week with an Arana Gulch trail update
Editor's note: Todays column is a guest article updating the effort to built multi-use trails in Arana Gulch from Janice Bisgaard, community relations specialist for the city of Santa Cruz. The article comes at the city celebrates this week as National Public Works Week. The City of Santa Cruz is currently constructing the Arana Gulch Multi-Use Trail Project that will expand the greenbelt’s access to many more people while providing habitat protection, green infrastructure and interpretive opportunities. Slated to open in November, the new trail system will also deliver an important cross-town link for pedestrians and bicyclists. Situated within the city of Santa Cruz, Arana Gulch includes open meadows, California oak oodland, and the riparian zone of Arana Creek. The greenbelt supports a variety of vegetation and wildlife including the endangered Santa Cruz tarplant. These natural wonders are currently off limits to many residents and visitors. The new multi-use trails will provide access to Arana Gulch for people who are disabled, the elderly and those with limited mobility or injuries who have difficulty walking on uneven and muddy surfaces. The new trails will also offer access for parents with small children who are not comfortable riding bicycles or pushing strollers on dirt trails. The nearly one-mile long multi-use trail system designed by the City’s Public Works Department also provides convenient new connections for City residents and visitors. Most City inhabitants live to the west of the greenbelt, which presently has no access along the entire western boundary. The city’s improvements include a new west entrance to Arana Gulch at Agnes Street. Public access is also expanded by a new 340-foot stress-ribbon pedestrian bridge across Hagemann Gulch. It is the first use of stress- ribbon engineering design in Central California which allows for a single span without any impact or intrusion on the gulch below. Another bridge-like structure will be placed above ground over the four existing 6 foot diameter underground culverts that drain Arana Creek into the north harbor. This causeway is being constructed over the pipes to provide access to them in the event they need future replacement or maintenance. This elevated trail allows the passage of potential flood waters flowing from Arana Creek during a peak flow storm event. Not only in bridge design, but throughout the entire project, the City has devoted much time and expense working closely with botanists and other technical specialists to ensure protection of sensitive habitat and provide a prudent level of public use. The project includes an adaptive management plan to restore and enhance native habitats, especially that of the Santa Cruz tarplant. Design choices also reflect the city’s commitment to increasing green infrastructure. The all-weather surface trails are being constructed of pervious concrete which has a high porosity allowing water to pass directly through, thereby reducing runoff and permitting groundwater recharge. An interpretive program will include signage on the natural history of the area and also encourage stewardship such as docent-led walks and opportunities for school programs in collaboration with partner organizations. “It is great to get to see such a complex project go from grant application to implementation,” said Rachel Moriconi of the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission. “The Public Works team has done an amazing job and should be commended for not only filling gaps in the bike and pedestrian network, but also for using so many innovative materials and all the care given to minimize impacts of the project.” As construction continues, the City is committed to being a good neighbor and working with the community and property owners surrounding Arana Gulch. More information is available at the Public Works website, http://www.cityofsantacruz.com.
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