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Arana Gulch Defenders Speak Up

By Jean Brocklebank and Michael Lewis

SUPPOSE someone came to your home, demanded you give up your dining room for an important project, and said your family would still be able to live in the home but would have to accept the intrusion and the loss and just, well, get on with your life? Suppose when you asked why, the answer was to fight global warming? If you responded that there were already 211 miles of bike lanes in the county, three other east-west routes with one designed for expanded bike lanes and sidewalks (Murray Street) and a fourth that would offer 32 miles of unbroken bike trails and sacrificing your home was not needed to fight global warming, and the $4 million could be better spent in maintaining, enhancing and restoring those existing 211 miles of bike lanes and encouraging people to use them, would you be called unreasonable?

Friends of Arana Gulch supports the Arana Gulch Master Plan (a well designed resource management tool), contingent on the removal of the Broadway-Brommer paved transportation project. Why?

In declaring 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity, the United Nations said, "Biodiversity, the variety of life on Earth, is essential to sustaining the living networks and systems that provide us all with health, wealth, food, fuel and the vital services our lives depend on. Human activity is causing the diversity of life on Earth to be lost at a greatly accelerated rate. These losses are irreversible, impoverish us all and damage the life support systems we rely on every day. And we can prevent them."

The pertinent question is not how many individual plants will be killed by construction of the paved bikeways routes (there are two, not just Broadway-Brommer). The question is how is habitat (think of it as your home) diminished by the project. Approving the Broadway-Brommer paved bikeway project risks reduction of the biodiversity of Arana Gulch and increases the risk of extinction of an endangered species. It will do this by bifurcating critical habitat of the endangered tarplant and all of its many associated coastal prairie species.

The central question for the Coastal Commission is: will approval of a non–"resource-dependent" project in an Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area that is also designated as "critical habitat" of an endangered species be a violation of Sec. 30240 of the Coastal Act, as all opponents of Broadway-Brommer assert?

The more pertinent questions for Santa Cruzans are: when is enough enough, and how much do we demand of the natural world for our pleasure, our entertainment, our recreation, our convenience? Can we be generous enough to let a small fragile place, in the middle of our urban city, be free of wide paved routes for the multitudes?

Friends of Arana Gulch does not suggest excluding people from this small fragile place, since one can already walk or bicycle in Arana Gulch, accessing it from two directions. We are simply asking people to enjoy the place on its own terms. Regarding access for mobility impaired residents, Friends of Arana Gulch presented its Restoration Alternative, including such access, to the city almost five years ago. The city ignored our alternative. Fortunately, we do not need Broadway-Brommer to provide access for mobility-impaired visitors to Arana Gulch.

Friends of Arana Gulch is a countywide association that counts bicyclists among its members. Jean Brocklebank is a biologist and grandmother who has worked for 15 years to protect Arana Gulch. Michael Lewis is an anthropologist and a daily bicycle commuter who supports practical and responsible bicycling.

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