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June 7, 1999

New trail will link Cowell, Pogonip, Wilder, and UCSC

By Francine Tyler

A new trail bridging the UCSC campus and Pogonip will enable hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders to travel from Felton's redwoods to the ocean beaches without ever leaving an established trail.

Little over a mile in length, the U-Con Trail--as it was dubbed by the volunteers who built it--is the final piece of a route now known as the Cowell-Wilder Regional Trail. The regional trail unites Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, Pogonip, UCSC's upper campus, and Wilder Ranch State Park. It makes use of previously existing trails and fire roads in addition to the new U-Con trail.

The U-Con section of the trail will open in the afternoon of Saturday, June 19.

"The extraordinary cooperative effort between agencies, private-gift funding to the project, and volunteer support have created a wonderful resource for the public to enjoy," said Wes Scott, UCSC's new director of Transportation and Parking Services.

The regional trail is the first such trail in the county involving a partnership of several different agencies and volunteer groups, said Bob Culbertson, chief ranger for the Santa Cruz District of California State Parks.

"One of the goals of Santa Cruz County is to have some trail systems that connect the county's recreational areas," said Culbertson. "This is a first step in that direction."

At a ceremony scheduled for June 19, representatives from UCSC, city of Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation, and the Santa Cruz District of California State Parks will formally open the Cowell-Wilder Regional Trail to the public. The ceremony will take place on Fuel Break Fire Road at UCSC's border with Pogonip, above the Crown-Merrill Apartments. The trail will remain closed to the public until the ceremony ends at noon.

June's dedication ceremony marks the end of a decade-long process that began when a county trails subcommittee started to investigate how connections could be built between public lands within Santa Cruz County, said Maggie Fusari, director of UCSC's natural reserves.

The trail officially became part of the Pogonip Master Plan in 1998 after approval by the Santa Cruz City Council. Providing equestrians and cyclists with a trail that is designed for multiple uses will allow UCSC to begin restoration on portions of natural reserve land that have been eroded or degraded, Fusari said.

"Mountain bikes can cause erosion and other problems on trails that aren't designed for that purpose," she said. UCSC's trails through the natural reserve area--which are winding and equipped in places with wooden steps--are designed for interpretive nature walks and can take only minimal use. The Cowell-Wilder route links to the sections of the campus fire roads that are designed for use by pedestrians, bicycles, and equestrians alike and can carry heavier traffic.

The Cowell-Wilder route enters the UCSC campus north of Merrill College at the border with Pogonip, using Fuel Break and Chinquapin fire roads. The route crosses upper campus before connecting with Wilder at Empire Grade, at a section of Wilder formerly known as Gray Whale Ranch. New maps and sign posts will be installed along the trail to provide distances and trail rules.

A number of volunteers from the Mountain Bikers Association of Santa Cruz County and the Santa Cruz County Horsemen's Association helped build the U-Con link and gave donations to fund an information kiosk, fencing, and trail signage for the Cowell-Wilder trail.

Bud and Emma McCrary, also members of the Horsemen's Association, designed the U-Con Trail and helped build it. The late Chuck Beebe, also of the Horsemen's Association, assisted in design and was a major force behind creating the regional trail.

City parks employees, UCSC staff, and the volunteers worked closely to flag and mark various trail layouts before the ultimate alignment was reached. That effort--and the cooperative spirt between members of the city's Greenbelt Committee and UCSC's Campus Land Use Management Advisory Committee during the Pogonip master planning process--has been very productive, said Dean Fitch, senior superintendent of UCSC's Physical Plant.

Pogonip remains closed to bicycles and horseback riders, except on the Cowell-Wilder Regional Trail. UCSC trails also remain closed to all but pedestrians, except for specifically designated routes that will be marked as the new trail is opened.

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