Photo provided by Murray Fontes, City of Watsonville Public Works & Utilities Department
The Next Rail Trail Segment Opens in Watsonville
After the spirited response to the opening of the Westside Rail Tail in the City of Santa Cruz (also known as Segment 7) many are wondering when and where other Coastal Rail Trail sections will open to the public. Because of Watsonville City Council’s early and enthusiastic support of the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail Network (MBSSTN) Master Plan back in 2014 the next section in the pipeline is Segment 18, the Watsonville Slough Open Space segment.
We reached out to Murray Fontes, the Principal Engineer for the City of Watsonville Public Works & Utilities Department, for an update on trail construction in Watsonville. It turns out that a key portion of Segment 18 is now nearing completion, and Murray filled us in on the details.
This newly-paved section of Segment 18 is 1500 feet in length, 12 feet wide, and slated to open in Spring 2021. This first section of the Rail Trail in Watsonville will extend from Ohlone Parkway to a brand new Watsonville Slough Trail connection. Two of the firms working on the project are the design firm Harris & Associates and the construction contractor Graniterock Company.
Construction on Phase 2, from Lee Rd to Ohlone Parkway, will be next, and then Phase 3 construction, extending from the Watsonville Slough Trail connection towards downtown and ending at Walker Street, will follow. Exact dates for starting construction of these next phases are uncertain but are expected soon.
Rail Trail Provides Connections
Ultimately, Segment 18 will enable bicyclists and pedestrians to safely travel along the publicly-owned railroad right-of-way from the intersection of Walker and Beach streets to Lee Road.
In addition to the Coastal Rail Trail, the City of Watsonville has two other trail projects in design, the Lee Road Trail and the Harkins Slough Road Pedestrian Bridge at Hwy 1, both of which connect to Segment 18. These trails connect with both Pajaro Valley High School and the Watsonville Slough Farms property owned by the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County. The network of trails will make Watsonville safer and provide access for pedestrians and cyclists to get to school and to enjoy Watsonville’s beautiful natural environment. You can find out more about the future of Watsonville trails in the City of Watsonville Trails & Bicycle Master Plan.
Murray Fontes told us he is pleased that the community has been supportive of the project and also noted that support for this segment of the Coastal Rail Trail hasn’t been limited to the City of Watsonville: the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County and Friends of the Rail & Trail provided funds toward the design and construction, and the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Agency staff has assisted with multiple aspects of the project.