While we’re busy occupying the public sphere, declaring our independence from corporate and government dominance, pause and give a thought to our natural areas that cannot speak for themselves in the public, human forum.
Arana Gulch is a greenbelt, set aside by a vote of the people of Santa Cruz as a natural area surrounded by human development. Arana Gulch is a tiny fraction of what once was a prevalent coastal prairie terrace environment along the Central Coast of California.
Before European humans arrived on the scene some 250 years ago and took over the neighborhood, including the neighbors, Arana Gulch was home to a variety of interdependent species: elk, deer, mountain lions, bobcats, gophers, red-tailed hawks, Coopers hawks, turkey buzzards, swifts, golden-crowned sparrows, field mice aplenty, steelhead, tidewater gobie, several species of salmon, popcorn flower, Molina, Live Oak, willow, Himalayan blackberry, and the Santa Cruz tarplant.
Years ago the tarplant grew by the hundreds of thousands in Arana Gulch, pollinated by a variety of insect species, its seeds spread by grazers such as elk and deer, tiny birds and the winds they fly on. In recent years, land use changes have caused the tarplant to diminish severely, until recently, when discovery of less than forty living plants was a cause for celebration. As a result, the Santa Cruz tarplant was declared endangered by the State of California and threatened by the United States government. In 2002, the US Fish and Wildlife Service declared all of Arana Gulch as Critical Habitat for the Santa Cruz tarplant.
Since 1971, the City of Santa Cruz has planned and attempted to build a paved roadway across the sensitive habitat of Arana Gulch, connecting two city streets on either side of the greenbelt, first for automobiles, and, since 1991, for bicycles. The paving would be eight feet wide with two feet of gravel shoulder on either side, carving a twelve foot wide gash across the Critical Habitat for the endangered tarplant.
Friends of Arana Gulch has worked for over sixteen years to stop the city from building this project. Since much of Arana Gulch is in the California Coastal Zone, the City must apply to the California Coastal Commission for a development permit to build this cross-town bicycle connection through Arana Gulch. Friends of Arana Gulch is asking for your help in appealing to the Coastal Commission to stop this development project and produce an Arana Gulch Master Plan that sets City policy to manage the Arana Gulch Greenbelt to restore and preserve this sensitive habitat for the endangered Santa Cruz tarplant and all the species that inhabit Arana Gulch.
Go to Friends of Arana Gulch to learn more and sign up to help out.