The month of May has gotten off to a great start with exciting developments throughout the Fifth District.
Last week, I was pleased to join other elected leaders in our county in celebrating the construction kick-off for the Highway 17 Wildlife Crossing, a project designed to reduce collisions between wildlife and vehicles by providing a safe passage under the highway that connects two habitat corridors. With an average of 65,000 vehicles that use the highway every day, this long-awaited project is deeply needed.
Situated on 400-plus acres of conservation land near Laurel Curve north of Scotts Valley, the undercrossing represents a critical partnership between the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission, Land Trust of Santa Cruz County and Caltrans. The $12.5 million project is partially funded by $5 million from the 2016 Measure D transportation initiative approved by voters, with contributions from the Land Trust and the State Highway Operation and Protection Program funds.
Last week, it was also my honor and pleasure to sign county proclamations for Scotts Valley Fire District Engineer Paramedic Will Post and Scotts Valley Police Department School Resource Officer Patrick Ahrens, who were named Exchange Club of Scotts Valley’s Firefighter of the Year and Police Employee of the Year, respectively. Please join me in congratulating and thanking them on their outstanding public service.
I also want to acknowledge two winners of County Volunteer of the Year awards who were recognized for their contributions to the San Lorenzo Valley. Ralph Miljanich volunteers at Felton Discovery Park and Quail Hollow Ranch, assisting with landscaping and beautification. And Chris Soriano from the Santa Cruz Natural History Museum partners with Felton Library Friends and other organizations on an ecological stewardship program teaching habitat restoration, pruning techniques and plant identification.
I also want to add my voice to the chorus of gratitude shown to two of our elected leaders—Congresswoman Anna Eshoo and Assemblymember Mark Stone—during the Valley Women’s Club General Meeting on May 1 in Ben Lomond. Following the statewide redistricting process last year, Rep. Eshoo’s district no longer includes the San Lorenzo Valley. And Assemblymember Stone is not seeking re-election. Both were honored with special gifts by the Valley Women’s Club and will be missed by our mutual constituents.
During the May 1 meeting, I primarily provided updates on CZU fire recovery and water issues. Since the public phase of fire debris removal was completed on private properties in July 2021, the County has issued 108 single-family building permits that have been picked up or are awaiting pick up. Another 128 single-family dwelling units have passed all three pre-clearances—for fire access, septic and geological hazards—and are ready for property owners to start the formal permitting process. Combined, those numbers represent around 40% of the approximately 600 parcels that have engaged with the County’s dedicated Recovery Permit Center since the fire. The County plans additional outreach to determine how we can help more survivors in their recovery.
As for water, I want to thank the San Lorenzo Valley Water District staff and Board of Directors for their efforts to rebuild the District’s system after the fire, and for working with small, private water companies also impacted by the 2020 fire. These include the communities of Bracken Brae and Forest Springs, for which SLVWD won a state grant to facilitate their consolidation with the district, as well as Big Basin Water Company, which is working on an operations agreement with the district ahead of what we hope will be a future annexation.
Two other important developments have to do with our libraries. The San Lorenzo Valley will celebrate the reopening of the Boulder Creek Branch Library, which has been under renovation funded by 2016’s Measure S, beginning at noon on May 7 at 13390 West Park Ave. The branch features a refreshed children’s area, community space and circulation desk, and includes key accessibility and other infrastructure updates. Meanwhile, the Scotts Valley Branch Library is undergoing structural and operational upgrades also as part of Measure S. After some delays caused by supply-chain issues related to the pandemic, the branch is expected to reopen this summer.
Lastly, it is great news that the Felton Remembers Parade and Covered Bridge Festival will happen in person again this year. The parade starts at 10am on May 28 with the festival to follow from 11am to 4pm. Thank you to all of the organizers and sponsors.
Bruce McPherson is the Fifth District Supervisor for the County of Santa Cruz, including the San Lorenzo Valley and parts of the cities of Santa Cruz and Scotts Valley. His views are his own and not necessarily those of the Press Banner. He can be reached at [email protected] or 831-454-2200.