Push to Declare Stretch of Santa Cruz Coast a National Monument
A view of the Monterey Bay from the Coast Dairies property. The 5,800-acre piece of land in Davenport is being proposed for a national monument. (Krista Almanzan/KQED)
As President Obama nears the end of his term, land conservationists are lining up with proposals to have their piece of the country designated a national monument. It’s something the president can do by executive order, and it can also happen through an act of Congress.
Davenport is home to about 700 residents. It’s a bedroom community and tourist destination for its secluded beach. But throughout Davenport’s history, industries have driven its identity: the shuttered cement plant, logging and even whaling.
And then there are the rolling hills in an area known as Coast Dairies. “There was dairy here around the turn of the century. You can see some of the historic buildings just over that knoll,” says Steve Reed as he opens a gate to the property that’s being proposed for national monument status.
It spans just over 5,800 acres that surround the community of Davenport. “So what you see here is rolling grasslands and prairies leading up to foothills that lead into deep canyons and ravines leading to a redwood ridgetop,” Reed explains.
This area was once eyed by developers for housing, but eventually ended up in the hands of the Trust for Public Land, which protected it. “The property has been designated by virtue of deed restrictions as a day use, publicly accessible piece of property,” says Reed.
Now it’s owned by the Bureau of Land Management, which opens up the property to the public at least once a month for guided tours. The BLM is working on plans for greater access, including the creation of recreational trails, but things are moving slowly partly because of funding.
That’s where Reed says becoming a national monument will make a difference. The status means access to federal funds, which could mean more money for the BLM to manage the property.
He says now is the time. “These monuments generally only get designated towards the tail end, I mean tail end, of a presidential administration,” says Reed.
Davenport is unincorporated, so the group serves as a conduit between the community and agencies that support it. The group’s concerns about the potential monument come down to trash, trauma and traffic.
“All of the burden of this new monument is going to fall on the county, and the county doesn’t have the money," says Spencer. "We don’t have a sheriff up here, we have no trash collection in the north part of the county, so all these resources are going to have to be paid for somehow."
It’s a problem they know all too well. Davenport’s beach is somewhat of an orphan.
“The Davenport Beach is not under anyone’s jurisdiction," explains Noel Garin Bock of the DNCA. "No agency takes claim for it, not the county nor the state. So the locals have to pick up the beach, and it is a mess during the summertime."
Davenport is a hot spot for visitors from Santa Cruz and Silicon Valley. “I really don’t leave my house on Saturday and Sunday because it’s so congested in that little teeny strip of Davenport,” says Garin Bock.
The association feels a monument designation will only compound these problems. Garin Bock points to the relatively new Fort Ord National Monument down the coast, which saw its visitor numbers jump from an estimated 250,000 year to 400,000 after it earned monument status.
“We can’t say that we are going to go from zero to 400,000 here, but we do know that our numbers will increase significantly,” Garin Bock says.
Even with all of their concerns, they don’t oppose the monument. They just want to see a comprehensive management plan first. They don’t understand the rush.
But Helmut Fritz takes a different approach to the timeline. He’s the owner of the Davenport Roadhouse Restaurant and Inn, one of the few local businesses on Highway 1.
“Time pressure is always a good thing because then things are being moved forward. If we say, ‘Oh, let’s do it over the next five years or 10 years,' it probably won’t even happen,” says Fritz.
He bought the Roadhouse three years ago after a career in the software industry.
“It’s not as a business owner, but as a person I believe we live in a beautiful surrounding, and people want to visit it, and we have to embrace that,” says Fritz.
He says that of course the monument would be good for business, and he’s also ready to share the ocean and land that drew him here.
“I’ve lived in many places around the world, and I’ve realized there’s no paradise, but this comes really close,” says Fritz.
Monument backers are drumming up support in Washington, D.C. So far, Rep. Anna Eshoo has introduced a resolution to designate the land the Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument .