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August 11, 2022

Boulder Creek Could Get $3.5M In Upgrades

Boulder Creek is now in line for $3.5 million that could be coming from more than 2,800 miles away—Capitol Hill, in Washington, D.C.—for a couple key improvements to the historic lumber town’s infrastructure.

On July 7, Congressional Representative Anna Eshoo announced $2 million for a new wastewater system and $1.5 million for pedestrian routes in the community were two items moving forward as part of $21.4 million in projects for possible approval in 2023.

“This year I requested the Appropriations Committee fund 15 projects to provide more affordable housing, fix roads, build Caltrain crossings, improve our schools, and rebuild communities damaged by wildfire,” she said in a release. “I’m proud to announce that the Committee has included these projects in their appropriations bills which will be voted on by the full House.”

The wastewater funding would be for design, planning, permitting and site acquisition, and was pitched as a way to assist survivors of the CZU Lightning Complex.

Treating sewage and other dirty water products would protect the watershed, promote the recovery of endangered species and enhance water quality, she said.

The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors originally established the Boulder Creek County Service Area back in 1968, bringing a wastewater plant into being.

A Feb. 4, 2020 engineer’s report—the most recent posted on the County’s website—found the wastewater office was in need of major repairs. 

“The existing roof leaks and the interior of the office is in need of structural improvements, roof repairs and insulation,” it stated, adding the equalization tank was also in need of replacement. “During periods of high levels of discharge, wastewater is diverted to the equalization tank and is held there before treatment or at times is removed by hauling to prevent a sanitary sewer overflow.”

Improvements were estimated at $1.4 million.

John Burton, a professional percussionist from Ben Lomond who frequently visits Boulder Creek, says he’s happy to hear the community might be getting some assistance for water treatment plans.

“It sounds like it’s better than nothing,” he said of the line item. “But it’s probably not nearly enough.”

He also suggested it could be a “touchy subject” for some, who might be fine with the way things are right now.

“Sewage is the thing that’s going to allow development,” he said. “You’re going into more of an urbanization direction.”

Tanner Wallace, the plumbing department manager at Scarborough Lumber Yard, said he’s seen first-hand how many locals have trouble with antique sewage systems.

“A lot of people’s stuff is just failing,” he said. “They just don’t want to change their system and pay for it.”

He agrees that a new wastewater program for the town would help protect the environment and make popular swimming spots safer.

“A lot of their waste will go straight into the San Lorenzo River,” he said, noting how unsanitary water flows past The Junction park, a recreation area. “That’s just right in town.”

He says the money for pedestrian safety was needed, too.

After all, the hardware store was recently sued by a woman who tripped on a dip in the concrete right outside the store, he noted.

“I’ve been here my whole life and I haven’t seen any roadwork on the actual sidewalks in a really long time,” he said. “It’s honestly really bad.”

The cracks and potholes are well-known to residents, he added.

“The roots will grow and push up the concrete,” Wallace said. “You’ll recognize it as almost a landmark, if you’re a local.”

J.C. Edwards, a 35-year-old from Brookdale, hopes the money will ultimately get approved by Congress.

“I think it is a good idea,” Edwards said. “I have kids, so anything improving sidewalks or pedestrian safety is important.

“I think things need to be updated, and I think this is a good way to start.”

Burton likened the pedestrian plan to non-vehicular pathways going in in places like Portland and Seattle.

“I was actually on the bike advisory committee in Sacramento,” he said. “I support multi-model transportation.”

But, he says, in his estimation Felton might actually need such infrastructure even more than Boulder Creek or Ben Lomond do.

Overall, though, Highway 9 can be quite dangerous.

“It’s hostile to pedestrians,” he said. “You might want to bushwhack your way on the other side of the guardrail, just so you don’t die.”

When asked about the federal funding progress update, while sitting outside Jenna Sue’s Café, Ted Tahira, 84, said there’s another amenity he’d rather see installed—particularly now that Big Basin Redwood State Park is opening.

“Boulder Creek needs a bathroom,” he said, noting many travelers make a pit stop in the community before making it to the park. “Our restaurants and our gas stations are not equipped to handle the tourists.”

Other projects in the appropriation bill include $800,000 for pavement resurfacing in the Sharp Park Priority Development Area in Pacifica, $750,000 to replace the play structure at Skypark in Scotts Valley and $1 million for a digital equity pilot program to deliver broadband internet for families with kids in the Lakeside School District and the Loma Prieta School District.

Drew Penner
Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected]

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