Putting Santa Cruz on the Map

President Obama could name a national monument in Santa Cruz County

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Photo by Calyse Tobias.
Photo by Calyse Tobias.

Santa Cruz, known for its scenery, redwoods and notorious surf, may become home to a new national monument.

Anna Eshoo, a representative for California’s 18th district which includes the Cotoni-Coast Dairies Property — an area south of the town of Davenport in Santa Cruz County and the region under consideration to become a national monument — proposed the legislation that would allow the Santa Cruz Coast to become a national monument. If the presented legislation is approved, 5,843 acres of oceanfront property would permanently be under federal protections.

“So, why a national monument?” said Gary Patton, former member of the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors and current environmental lawyer. “A national monument would elevate the status of our north coast lands.”

A declaration of a national monument is a president’s decision to protect “objects of historic or scientific interest.” Unlike national parks, this status does not guarantee the region federal funding for the maintenance such as trail creation, trash pick up, ranger patrol or parking. A national monument, or national state park, also happens to be reserved as ‘all-natural’ land which includes no mining, roads or power lines allowed on the land itself.

Most of the Cotoni-Coast Dairies’ property is currently owned by the Bureau of Land Management, which budgets $200,000 over a period of five years to all current California Coastal National Monuments and is set to be adjusted if the Cotoni-Coast Dairies is declared as a national monument.

If the president names a national monument on the north coast of Santa Cruz, it would increase the visitation, said Patton, who opposes the campaign.

“All of the impacts of people already on the north coast are beyond the capacity of our current governments” Patton said. “So this will make it worse.”

About half of all the national monuments in the country have over 100,000 visitors per year and are well-known to the public, including Fort Ord National Monument, a former U.S. Army post located in Monterey and Muir Woods National Monument, which is 12 miles north of San Francisco in southwestern Marin County.

However, David Christy, a public affairs officer for the Bureau of Land Management in Central California said not all national monuments bring in an increase of visitors.

“We have some monuments that have fairly light visitation,” Christy said. For example, the Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site and the Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Monument — both located in the Bay Area — are in the top 10 least visited monuments in the national park system, according to the National Parks Conservation Association.

“I spent my childhood going to national monuments with my folks because that was where you could go camping,” said Stephen Reed, the campaign manager for the Cotoni-Coast Dairies national monument. “It didn’t require paying money for campsites or reservations.”

The national monument on the north coast could end up making an impression on visitors just as other monuments did on Reed. A place where families can travel together, bond and behold the beauty that is the Santa Cruz coast.

The national monument would be placed designated for the original Native American Amah Mutsun tribe land and would only be accessible to the public during the day.

An agreement was negotiated between the Bureau of Land Management and the tribe, Reed said, agreeing if the land was declared a national monument the tribe would be allowed to practice their culture on the property and share their history with the visitors on their sacred land. Cotoni, the Amah Mutsun word for this region of the coast, was added to the title, making Cotoni-Coast Dairies the finished title for the proposed monument.

President Obama’s term will be coming to a close this January, leaving him with limited time to assign national monument status to the Cotoni-Coast Dairies. With a swift stroke of Obama’s pen, a national monument could appear on the Santa Cruz coast.