It was a classic collection of Valley folks: elementary age kids, young professionals, school officials, community leaders and a smattering of the old guard, who showed up for a community meeting at San Lorenzo Valley Elementary School to discuss plans for safe routes for walking and biking to school.
About 70 were in attendance and organizers claimed over 300 had already signed petitions of support.
The meeting was put together by Bryan Largay a Felton parent and Tawn Kennedy of PeoplePower, the local bike rider advocacy group. The two spearheaded the formation of Safe Routes to School SLV, a coalition of of community members and local organizations.
Largay referenced past efforts including, the SLV Trails Committee, local groups that had offered support like the SLVUSD Board of Trustees, The Valley Women’s Club, People Power, the Sierra Club of Santa Cruz County and the SLV Chamber of Commerce and said this gathering was “another step on the journey”.
He suggested it would not be easy or quick, but he hoped that in five years his child could safely ride their bike to school.
Kennedy, spoke briefly about state and national initiatives that currently exist to promote healthier lifestyle choices for students - 16% walk or ride bikes to school today vs 42% in 1969; as well as efforts to reduce traffic congestion - 25% of morning commute traffic is attributed to parents taking children to school. He spoke of existing and potential coalitions and pledged to continue dedicate resources to see the project through.
Superior Court Judge Jeff Almquist, a Felton resident and former County Supervisor, spoke about his experience as an avid bike rider in the Valley. His concern for the safety of cyclists, particularly along Hwy 9 led him to spearhead a plan to develop a safe bike route from Santa Cruz to Boulder Creek. As a County Supervisor and a member of the Transportation Commission he spearheaded a process which eventually resulted in the publication of the SLV Trail Feasibility Study. (Almquist was appointed to the bench before the study was published in July 2006.)
Almquist pointed out that the existence of the finished study could at least provide the “predicate for future funding” and he noted that the transportation budget was separate from the State’s general fund and might not be as severely affected by the current state budget mess.
The three candidates for County Supervisor were in attendance and all pledged their support. Eric Hammer, (who has already earned the endorsement of PeoplePower) urged the group to use the “momentum you have clearly developed” to press for a meeting with John Presleigh, County Director of Public Works and “start a conversation” about what kinds of incremental improvements might be feasible in the short term. “Working as a community we can do this.” he said, adding that this is exactly the kind of project that describes the work he hopes to do as Supervisor.
Bruce McPherson was optimistic but listed three obstacles to overcome: “1. The topography of Hwy 9, 2. Money and 3. Property owners.” He decried the traffic congestion problems, saying “Highway 9 is a mess” and that something needs to be done “so we don’t have a parking lot twice a day.”
He mentioned the current tax property owners pay for road maintenance, suggesting that it was something that would have to be “looked at”.
“I don’t like tax and spend” he said “but we have to think about it.”
He thought the project would find favor with everyone from “highway people to health care.” As far as property owners he said only that “we have to deal with it.”
Bill Smallman said he was “100% in support” and then went on to explain and defend his opposition to the coastal rail purchase.
When the audience was invited to provide comments, many wanted to know what were the next steps. Mr Largay suggested no real action could occur before January because of the elections. It was at this point that Hammer suggested the level of support in the room deserved swifter action. Largay wasted no time in tapping the momentum by scheduling an organizational meeting for the following Monday, 7-8pm at SLE.
To get involved contact Tawn Kennedy at email@example.com
In the interest of proividing a complete account; one gentleman was curious about who would protect his property rights. He claims he has to watch misbehaving youth cutting across his land doing “all sorts of things; fighting, using drugs, screwing.”