The first steps toward making a more than 300-mile walking and cycling trail from the San Francisco Bay to Humboldt Bay, crossing some of the North Coast’s most scenic, least-traveled landscapes are set to begin later this year.
Details such as when the Great Redwood Trail could be completed, how the most challenging stretches might be constructed and how much it all will cost remain big unknowns. But advocates of the ambitious plan to convert a decaying railway into a world-class pathway, potentially drawing tens of thousands of visitors to the region each year, say they’re confident it’s not a question of if it’ll happen, but when.
“Oh absolutely, absolutely. No question,” said Caryl Hart, the former head of Sonoma County Regional Parks. “Portions are already built in Willits and Ukiah, and quite a large portion in Humboldt Bay and Arcata is in the beginnings of development. It’s not like we have to find or buy the right of way — it already is there, and that is just such an advantage.”
The concept involves connecting blacktop in populated areas and segments of dirt trails in rural sections adjacent to deteriorating train tracks throughout five counties to offer a hiking, biking and horseback riding experience unlike any other. The meandering trek from Larkspur to beyond Eureka, which includes the remote, 50-mile Eel River Canyon north of Willits, would provide unencumbered, picturesque views few have laid eyes on before.
“It’s something that almost nobody has seen,” said Hart, a board member for the North Coast Railroad Authority that oversees the defunct railroad corridor. “People never get the opportunity at multiple days through this region and to experience dawn in the redwoods, for example. You can be hiking along this trail literally adjacent to oldest and largest trees on the planet right by the river. It’s not something you can experience at all right now.”
The passage of a bill from state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, and the governor’s signature last year directed the state to create a plan to build the trail while also doing away with the railroad authority, which has become insolvent after 30 years watching over the corridor. A forthcoming audit is expected to nail down debts of about $12 million for the Ukiah-based public agency.
Between 2008 and 2017, drivers struck and killed 49,340 people who were walking on streets all across the United States. That’s more than 13 people per day, or one person every hour and 46 minutes. It’s the equivalent of a jumbo jet full of people crashing—with no survivors—every single month.
Dangerous by Design 2019 takes a closer look at this alarming epidemic.
We can and must do more to reduce the number of people who die while walking every day on our roadways. For too long we have disregarded this problem by prioritizing moving cars at high speeds over safety for everyone. It’s past time for that to change. Protecting the safety of all people who use the street—especially the people most vulnerable to being struck and killed—needs to be a higher priority for policymakers, and this priority must be reflected in the decisions we make about how to fund, design, operate, maintain, and measure the success of our roads.
Bay Area transit planners have recommended the North Bay’s commuter train agency be granted $12.6 million to support the build out of its planned bicycle and pedestrian pathway, SMART announced Thursday.
If approved by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission as early as this month, the funding would go toward 4.7 miles of new paved pathway in Petaluma, Rohnert Park and Santa Rosa. SMART’s original plan envisioned completion of 54 miles of trail adjacent to the rail corridor and upgrades to an existing 16 miles designated for bicycles and pedestrians, together running the 70-plus miles from Cloverdale to Larkspur.
Only 16.2 miles of the pathway are complete. About 5 miles of the multi-use path across San Rafael, Novato, Cotati and Rohnert Park were completed in 2017-18, with another 1-mile segment in Petaluma due to be built this year, according to SMART.
Should SMART receive the MTC grant, funded through state gas and vehicle weight taxes, the agency will build new segments from McDowell Boulevard in Petaluma to Main Street in Penngrove and from Golf Course Drive in Rohnert Park to Bellevue Avenue in Santa Rosa. SMART also has another grant application submitted for funding to complete another 12 miles of trail between Windsor and Petaluma.
“Having an integrated pathway enhances SMART’s successful passenger rail service,” Gary Phillips, SMART’s board chairman, said in a statement. “This funding is a major achievement for SMART and for the communities we serve.”
In July 2018, the air temperature in Woodland Hills, a Los Angeles neighborhood some 20 miles north of the Pacific Ocean, peaked at 117 degrees Fahrenheit. For 63-year old U.S. Post Office carrier Peggy Frank, that Friday marked her first day back at work after recovering from a broken ankle. At 3:35 p.m., Frank was pronounced dead after paramedics found her unresponsive in her non-air-conditioned truck. In September, the Los Angeles County coroner’s office confirmed what seemed a forgone conclusion: Frank died of hyperthermia — she overheated.
A few months later, in November, the Woolsey Fire swept through Malibu and parts of the San Fernando Valley. The blaze killed three and forced the evacuation of almost 300,000 people, burning 96,000 acres and destroying 1,643 structures. Then, after heavy rain in areas scarred by the fire, came the mudslides in December and January that killed one person and closed portions of the Pacific Coast Highway.
For most of the population, climate change is too big a thing to grapple with. As the theorist Timothy Morton argued, it’s a “hyperobject” — it is too big, too sprawling in time and space, and too complex to see fully from any single vantage point. It’s numbing. But by narrowing our focus, we can catch more than a glimpse. It may be easier to understand climate change at the regional level, says Katherine Davis Reich, associate director of UCLA’s Center for Climate Science. “We can all appreciate what climate change impacts would be in our backyard and act on that, much more than at the global level.”
Los Angeles, the second-largest city in the United States, is perched precariously on the edge of the Pacific. Not long ago, it was the nation’s frontier; today, its cultural industries produce the globe’s films, music, and television, always hunting for the next new thing. Here, the line between the present and the future has always been thin. As it swelters, burns, erodes, and collapses, that barrier may have been swept away altogether. For L.A., 2018 was not a sign of things to come. It’s a sign of things that have arrived.