The President’s Message—January 2015
by John Fuchs
Happy 2015 Friends of the Forest,
With your help and support, the Advocates for the Forest of Nisene Marks had another busy and successful year in 2014. We look forward to building on those successes, continuing to pursue unfinished work and embarking on new initiatives in this freshly minted New Year. But first, let’s take a look back….
Drought, Dust & Dust Abatement
As the worst drought in recent memory continued to manifest itself in brown lawns, wilted landscaping, un-washed cars, un-flushed toilets and threats of water rationing/moratoriums, the Park was also showing signs of de-hydration. The brooks weren’t as babbling as we would have liked. The ferns and wildflowers weren’t as vibrant as we would have hoped. Spring just didn’t seem to have the same bounce in her step—and then there was the dust. The fire road became a dust bowl. With every passing car, runner, or bike, a corresponding cloud of fine dust was thrown into the air where it lingered and migrated to cover everything and everyone in a ‘not-so-fine’ layer of dust. Something had to be done….
….and something was done. State Parks, The Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks and the Advocates combined efforts and resources to “Abate the Dust”. In a glorious week in May, we re-graded and armored the road between the Kiosk and the Steel Bridge with 500 tons of baserock and applied 760 gallons of a dust abatement product called ‘Dust-off’. The results were immediate and durable throughout the spring and summer. We may not have ‘made it rain’, but we did make a huge impact on the dust bowl. We look forward to maintaining that level of dust abatement in 2015 and possibly extending it to the rest of the fire road from the Steel Bridge to the Porter Family Parking lot.
As you probably know, the Advocates help maintain the trails and facilities in the Park. It’s not always ‘glory work’. We ended 2013 and began 2014 by repairing, re-siding and painting each of the outhouses in the Park. This work falls into the category of ‘someone has got to do it’. A good attitude goes a long way. Thank you, volunteers!
On a more aromatic note, we put up and took down the two seasonal bridges over Aptos Creek, and brushed-back and did tread work on many of the trails in the lower network, including Oak Ridge, Mill Pond and Terrace trails. Many thanks go to Patrick Courtright, of State Parks, who works with us side by side on each of these projects, and Bob Thrash who is the Advocates “Trail Boss” who organizes these monthly adventures. And of course, we can never thank enough those volunteers who give up a good chunk of their Sunday once a month to come out and help us take care of this beautiful Park.
Cabrillo Connector Trail
Speaking of a process—after 16 years of perseverance and hard work, a legal multi-use trail between Nisene Marks’ Vienna Woods Trail and Cabrillo College was officially opened on 3/28/14. If you haven’t had the opportunity to check it out, you should. It’s currently a diamond-in-the rough, but it’s getting better and better with increasing use.
Walk, Talk and Faults
October 17, 2014, was the 25th Anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake. Local geologist, Gary Griggs, and historian, Sandy Lydon, organized a hike to the Epicenter, and they hosted a lecture at Cabrillo the following day. Advocates, Ed Gilbert, Elisa Webb, Maureen and Bob Thrash also set up and hosted info booths in the Park and at the lecture. It was great opportunity to commemorate the ‘Big Shake’ with the healing perspective that 25 years can provide—and also to consider whether or not we are really ready for the next ‘Big One’!
The Advocates are extremely proud and grateful for our on-going collaborative relationship with the Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks. Advocates Maureen Thrash and Geoff Alexander have been serving on their Nisene Committee since its inception in 2013. We are grateful to Bonnie Hawley, Peg Danielson and Chairman Stuart Kitayama for our inclusion at this table, and especially for the great Christmas Party they throw every year. We have two great organizations helping to improve and take care of Nisene Marks, …. and we couldn’t do it without them.
Flowers in the Park
One of the favorite features on our website and Facebook page is Advocate Allison Livingston’s Flora and Fauna in the Park. From Fairy Bells to Fat Solomon’s Seal, and of course, Clintonia to Crimson Columbine, she’s got it covered. My New Year’s resolution this year is to try and actually remember some of the names of those beautiful little wildflowers in the Park. Her timely updates and photos always help.
Gone… but never forgotten
We lost our beloved Trail Boss, Tanya Larson, this past year. You may have seen or even sat on a bench we dedicated to her above Aptos Creek, towards the Steel Bridge end of the Aptos Rancho Trail. The inscription says, “Peaceful…Easy…Feeling”, and that was our Tanya. Next time you get a chance, ‘sit a moment’ on her bench, and I guarantee that her spirit will be with you.
We also lost a huge advocate for the Park named Jim Toney. He was a fine gentleman with a warm smile and a sparkle in his eyes. Jim was the inspiration and driving force behind establishing a committee dedicated to Nisene Marks within the Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks organization. He was instrumental in the success of the dust abatement project, and many other projects thru the years. He left a legacy of commitment and accomplishment for all of us moving forward. He will be sorely missed.
Interpretive Panels: We look forward to the possibility of adding additional interpretive panels in the Park. Some locations under consideration are the Loma Prieta town site, Hoffman’s Historic Site, Big Stump Gulch and Top of the Incline.
Hawk’s Peak Trail: Hawk’s Peak is a lovely little knoll above the Buggy Trail with a view similar to Sand Point. It would be a wonderful addition to the trails in the lower network. I wouldn’t say it’s a ‘work in progress’, but we’re definitely ‘advocating’!
Aptos Creek Fire Road Dust Abatement: We hope to continue to expand this effort. Like so many things, funding is the key to this project. However, the approvals are in place!
Trial Signage: This year, you can look forward to better trail signage in the Marcel’s Forest and Big Slide areas. And, be still my heart, we may even get a sign at the Advocate’s Tree.
Bridge repair/replacement: There are a number of bridges in the Park that need significant repairs and/or replacement. We are in the beginning stages of getting those funded and approved.
Additional Parking: It looks like the Aptos Village Project is finally going to break ground in February, 2015. This project will have a significant impact on parking within the Park. Expanding parking in the Park will quickly become a necessity. We look forward to working with State Parks and Friends on exploring the possibilities.
A bridge…a visitor center…big hairy, audacious goals: Jim Toney inspired us to think big. A bridge too far….not necessarily!
As anticipation begins anew for the next trip around the Sun— it’s a good time of year to thank those who help make this journey so satisfying. With the support of folks like you, the Advocates have been able to help State Parks take care of the Forest of Nisene Marks for the past 23 + years. Thank You!
Unfortunately, more than ever, we continue to need your support, and the support of our entire community. State Parks’ budget for taking care of Nisene Marks has inexplicably gotten worse – not better – despite the improving economy and state finances. Critical open positions such as the Supervising Ranger (formerly Bill Wolcott) and the Pajaro Sector Park Superintendent (recently retired Kirk Lingenfelter) will go unfilled. A backlog of needed health and safety improvements in the Park continues to grow, and even day to day maintenance is strained. From maintenance to dust abatement, and to road and trail improvements, the state funding is simply not there.
With your generous support, we can continue to make a difference in the Park. As an all-volunteer, non-profit organization, you can be assured that your donation will be efficiently put to work. So, thank you for your generosity and support, and we look forward to carrying on the legacies of Tanya Larson and Jim Toney. They’ve shown us the way and blazed the trail. With your help, we can follow in their footsteps and continue to preserve and improve this Forest of Nisene Marks.
Happy New Year everybody….see you in the Forest!
President, Board of Directors
Advocates for the Forest of Nisene Marks