Monday, March 16, 2009

Status of Coast Dairies

Recently, I had a conversation with the Field Manager for the BLM office in Holister. This office is responsible for the management of the Fort Ord properties (Sea Otter back country) and Coast Dairies. The Coast Dairies property is going to play an important role in the future of Santa Cruz mountain biking. The BLM is open minded to events and are willing to create the challenging, sustainable trails that mountain bikers enjoy. The BLM has a great partnership with mountain bikers across the nation.

The objective of my call was to get the status of the Coast Dairies conveyance and see how I can help him out when I visit our congressional representatives in Washington, DC this week (more in a separate message). Here is what I found out:

  • Many of the “hard” issues have been resolved like the CEMEX land swap and lot line adjustment. The only thing pending is to do the title process and other minutiae of doing a large real estate transation. He mentioned that he has a full time title lawyer working on this.
  • Conveyance is as far along as it ever has. All previous obstacles to land transfer has been addressed.
  • The “ball is in the court of the Trust for Public Land (TPL)” - who are the current land holders. Just a question of focus and resources. Due diligence needs to be done like title exception and the easement language is in place.
  • BLM has some funds for managing the property after conveyance. They are already drafting trail and recreation plans.
  • There are some concerns from local conversationalists about the BLM’s intentions with this land. The BLM has a national reputation of resource exploitation on the lands they manage and articles such as this one contribute to the suspicion. The local BLM has the same conservation values as other local land agencies and the Field Manager is sincere in honoring the existing deed restrictions.
  • When conveyance takes place the BLM can tap into the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) to get funding for trails and trail head improvements. We are well situated to utilize these programs since the BLM Trail and Recreation Planner has had RTP grants training and MBOSC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit who can partner with the BLM and provide volunteers for the work. This is the type of partnership in which the RTP grantors are looking for.
  • The BLM will not commit to a date when conveyance will occur. They have been burned way too many times in coming up with a date. I’m hoping/guessing that it will be within the year and we may be able to accelerate the process.
Now that we have a little more clarity, how can we move this process forward?

  • We should contact the TPL and ask them to move forward with the conveyance. It is in their best interests to absolve themselves of the ownership and management of this land. The TPL still has issues with moving the Ag lands to a trust but this doesn’t preclude the conveyance to BLM.
  • We should ask Congress to give Coast Dairies have an Outstanding Natural Area designation.  This designation ensures that the land is valued for a set of attributes like scenic, educational and recreational. This designation becomes the primary use and is the framework for any underlying plan. Arguably this restricts the flexibility of the land manager (and successive land managers) but it will mitigate the concerns of those who don’t trust the BLM to adhere to the deed restrictions.
  • In light of the CEMEX plant closure (starting Monday for 6 months... and beyond?), we should get the town of Davenport to buy into the idea of diversifying their economy by promoting the recreational and economic value of Coast Dairies.
  • We should follow up the BLM Trail and Recreation planner about the interim access plan and the draft of the trail plan. We should volunteer our input, resources and expertise.
The Coast Dairies property will be an amazing mountain bike destination with high marine terraces, a 700 acre second growth redwood forests and incredible ocean views. It will only become this reality though a lot of help and support from the community. Please contact me if you want to help out with this initiative.

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