President’s Message – December 2007
Although the past year has been relatively quiet for the Advocates, we did receive the exciting news that the grant to build a permanent bridge to Marcel’s Forest has been approved. The winter of 2007 was mild and caused little damage in the Forest. Our workday crews were able to keep the trails in good shape for park visitors. We made some good progress on our project to install new information signs at the kiosk and Porter Gate parking areas and the Board of Directors welcomed Ed Gilbert as our newest member.
Grant for Permanent Bridge to Marcel’s Forest
The most exciting news this past year was the announcement in January of the award of a grant to build a permanent bridge and an accessible trail to the Marcel’s Forest area of the park. The bridge and trail would be a major enhancement to not only the park but to the community as a whole by providing the opportunity of a beautiful redwood experience to many who are not able to take advantage of the other hiking trails in Nisene Marks.
Marcel’s Forest, which includes the Old Growth Loop trail, is an area added to the park in 1999 and offers a unique hiking experience including a number of old growth redwoods. The area is a short distance from the ranger kiosk area but on the opposite side of Aptos Creek. Each spring, the Advocates organize a volunteer workday to install a temporary bridge across Aptos Creek to provide easy access. The bridge must be removed each fall leaving this lovely area difficult to reach from the kiosk area. In 2003, State Parks – with significant help from the Advocates, put together the proposal for the grant which was submitted to the Federal Highway Administration’s Recreational Trails Program. The proposal was initially rejected but re-submitted in 2004.
Jack Kirchner, State Parks Santa Cruz District Maintenance Supervisor, is in charge of the project. In the next few months Jack will be working with one or more bridge construction companies to evaluate the technical feasibility of the project and get some cost estimates.
Board of Director’s Changes
Early this year Board of Directors member Kathy Griffin announced her retirement from the Board. Luckily, Ed Gilbert volunteered to take her place. Ed has been a Nisene Marks Docent for 13 years and has led more than 190 interpretive hikes in the park for school classes and other youth groups focusing on park history and ecology. He also leads groups from all over the world on day hikes and backpack hikes through the park as part of his part-time business Gilbert Redwood Excursions (www.gilbertredwoodexcursions.com). There isn’t anyone who knows the park better than Ed as you can tell from his article “A Walk Back Through History” on page 3. Welcome aboard, Ed.
New Information Signs
There has been good progress this year on providing new information signs for the park. In 2004, the Advocates Board of Directors approved $7,000 for the design, construction and installation of new signs that would provide visitors an up-to-date map of the park showing all of the major trails and indicating points of interest. There have been some false starts and delays due to changing personnel and lack of resources in State Parks. However, in June, State Parks Interpretive Ranger Linda Hitchcock identified Wildways Illustrated as the designer for the signs. There will be two signs, one at the kiosk area and one at the Porter Gate area. In addition, a road map of the lower portion of the park will be installed on the side of the kiosk to help orient visitors. Construction and installation of the signs should be completed early in 2008.
To provide high quality photographs for use on the signs, Ed Gilbert, who has been the driving force behind the sign project, agreed to work with Interpretive Ranger Jeff Barnes to do a photo portrait of the park. This required several lengthy hikes to photograph some of the park’s outstanding features. The entire portfolio of Jeff’s photographs will be posted on the Advocates web site (www.advocatesfnm.org) in the near future.
Aptos Creek Trail Closure
In February, 2006, heavy rains caused a major slide on the Aptos Creek trail above the ’89 quake epicenter. The trail is part of a popular loop in the park connecting to Big Slide trail and access to Five Finger Falls. Unfortunately, because of the steepness of the canyon area where the slide occurred and the instability of the soil a quick re-route of the trail is not feasible. Jack Kirchner and Barbi Barry, Pajaro District Maintenance Supervisor, evaluated the slide in November of this year and determined that a major re-route of the trail would be required. It appears that the trail will be closed indefinitely until resources are available to resolve the problem.
Aptos Village Development
The Aptos Village Plan was first outlined in a series of community meetings in 2003 and envisioned expanded commercial development as well as a more prominent entrance to the Forest of Nisene Marks. At issue is the impact on the parking area across from Aptos County Park which is currently used by many of the park’s visitors, particularly runners and bikers. The developer, Barry Swenson, is in the process of completing the details for their proposed development. Once completed, a draft master plan would then be made available for both community and environmental review before going to the County Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors for final approval.
Koch Property Development
The Koch property comprises 142 acres located between Cabrillo College and Nisene Marks State Park. Local residents and Cabrillo Collage students have traditionally used the property to access the park at the Vienna Woods and Scout (Water Tower) trail heads. The current owner, however, has been trying for several years to develop the property and block access to the park. In November of this year, the County Zoning Commission gave its approval for the owner to build a house on the hill below the water tower. The local non-profit group, Nisene2Sea (www.nisene2sea.org), which has been advocating that the property be acquired as an open space area, will be filing an appeal to the County Planning commission.
Trail Work Activity
Mother Nature was gentle in her treatment of the Forest this year so we got a break from needing to do any significant trail repair. We had four volunteer workdays this year. Two were dedicated to installing and de-installing the seasonal bridge to Marcel’s Forest. In May we did some trail cleanup in preparation for The Forest of Nisene Marks Marathon and Half-Marathon. In November we had a day to re-seat the “boardwalk” on Loma Prieta trail which had settled somewhat since it was installed by the Advocates several years ago. At a recent Advocates Board of Directors meeting, Bill Wolcott, Supervising State Parks ranger, reported that, in the past year, the only significant enforcement activities dealt with a homeless encampment on the Aptos Rancho trail and illegal ATV usage in Hinckley Basin.
– Paul Ticknor, President, Board of Directors