Friends of Arana Gulch

Arana oak -- March, 2000 -- by Jean Brocklebank

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world;
indeed it's the only thing that ever has." 111Margaret Mead

Tarplant Season 2014

    A third year of drought, coupled with a lack of any consistent, meaningful management of tarplant habitat by the City for the past 15 years (which spent its energy, time and money on building a bike short cut through the greenbelt) has resulted in the lowest inventory of Holocarpha macradenia since records began. Friends of Arana Gulch found three individuals (one very tiny indeed) and the City's botanist found a fourth, so tiny as to be almost imperceptible. Of the four plants, two were desiccated and gone by August.

Click HERE to see how they looked on July 10th.

Click HERE to see how they looked on September 5th (note that we had mulched around their bases to try to preserve any moisture in the soil).

Click HERE to see the only surviving tarplant on September 27 (with its 51 flowers).

Follow the Destructive Project

Click HERE to follow the latest destruction of the Arana Gulch Greenbelt.

"Costs rise on Santa Cruz greenbelt path project"

Click HERE for the Santa Cruz Sentinel article on the Hagemann bridge cost overrun.
Click HERE to see the Brommer Street curbing that had to be replaced.
Click HERE to see the retaining wall hazard that will require fixing.

Click HERE to see pictures that holler "More cost overruns to come!" due to original project design flaws.

Click HERE to see the paved routes in the context of the destruction to create them (as of 11/23/14).

This is what was promised.
This is what was built.      Click HERE to see the full story.

Bike Project Begins to Cut Greenbelt in Half

    The most egregious example of local bureaucratic cock-ups came to a head on November 15, 2013, with the ceremonial groundbreaking for the deservedly delayed and much opposed $6 million Broadway-Brommer Bike Road.

    Long opposed by real environmentalists, the Broadway-Brommer project has suffered a spotty history over the last twenty years. Originally conceived as a street for cars connecting Broadway in the City to Brommer Street in Live Oak, the project was axed by Santa Cruz City officials in response to environmental opposition. Later, as a paved bike road, the project was again laid to rest by a subsequent City Council.

    Nevertheless, City Public Works staff, reluctant to lose out on one-and-a-half million dollars of "free" federal money, revived the moribund project. Over the years, the B-B morphed from a car road, to a Class One Bicycle Commuter route with an enormous bridge spanning Arana Creek, to a curving, up and down bike road with bridges over Hagemann Creek and Arana Creek. Finally, donning funny nose and glasses, B-B was disguised as a "multi-use interpretive trail," as the overwhelmingly dominant component of the yet to be implemented Arana Gulch Master Plan.

    The B-B project follows the historical government tradition of "destroying the village to save it." Since all of Arana Gulch is declared Critical Habitat for the endangered Santa Cruz tarplant, Public Works staff struggled to find some way to justify building a paved road through the fragile species' only home. City officials had to find some way to make the project "resource dependent" to satisfy California Coastal Commission regulations for development in Sensitive Habitat Areas, such as Arana Gulch.

    Thus was born the "interpretive trail." No, it's not a different route. Yes, it still paves over critical habitat of an endangered species. But now the project has interpretive signs that will describe what was lost when this Natural Area was drawn and quartered, north to south and east to west, by an 8 foot wide asphalt paved road with two feet of graded shoulder on either side, where nothing will grow.

    The Boondoggle took it's first wee steps this week, kicked into a mockery of life with the traditional celebratory groundbreaking. Scores of brightly bedecked bicyclists joined toothy City Fathers... and one Mother, in the bright noon sun. A massive diesel backhoe supplied the necessary technology, mysteriously idling for no apparent reason, adding it's diesel fumes to the rapidly accumulating hot air.

    To "Balance" this display of bureaucratic excess, Friends of Arana Gulch, a stalwart group of caring environmentalists who have consistently opposed the Broadway-Brommer project lo these many years, arrived in funereal black to mourn the demise of the Arana Gulch Greenbelt. Bearing signs saying, "Good-bye to the Greenbelt," "Shame," "Less trees, less grass, less wildflowers, less wildlife," "Is Broadway-Brommer really needed?" and "Save it, don't pave it," the Friends stood in silent vigil for the animals, plants and insects who have no say in the future of their home in Arana Gulch.

    The assembled officials donned unfamiliar hardhats, grabbed golden-painted shovels, and, after instructions on which end to point at the ground, posed for the obligatory photographs. They scraped meager scratches into the hard packed earth, gratefully returned the shovels to those who know how to use them, and decanted into the crowd for obsequious self-congratulations.

    Thus the fate of the Arana Gulch Greenbelt was signed, sealed and delivered. No longer a Natural Area, now an incipient Park for human recreation, and a paved shortcut for bicyclists in a hurry, Arana Gulch passes into history along with its sensitive species, unique habitat, its quiet, its open space, its true value.

    Arana Gulch is now just another anonymous feature in the urban development that has inundated the landscape from Moore Creek to Valencia Creek, from the Santa Cruz Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.

    So long Arana Gulch! It was good to have known you.

    Michael A. Lewis

Click HERE to see more photos!

    Dear Friends ~

    We have always had Margaret Mead's simple message for activists on our web site. It seems that it is always less than 10% of the population who care, with the other 90% divided into those who don't care whatsoever, those who care but only if they get something from it, and those who care but assume humans must progress so oh well.

    On November 15, Friends of Arana Gulch came to mourn the death of a greenbelt and not let the destructors have their day unmarred in celebration. We were successful in this at least. We threw mournful water on their party. We were a tolerated, as the politicos made their speeches and shoveled their dirt. Our message was clear to the gathered crowd, 10 times greater than our numbers. Of course.

    We will continue to monitor and photo-document the destruction of the Arana Gulch Greenbelt. And we will always speak clearly and strongly whenever the topic of Broadway Brommer arises, just as we would defend any innocent who was murdered -- we'll not let the place lose friends.

    Someday, perhaps a hundred or more years from now, the gophers will have encroached upon the pavement, spilling upended soil over the scar. The seed of many grasses will have found root in cracks and will begin the slow process of breaking apart the life-snuffing pavement. Raptors will look down and see a slow return as Arana Gulch arises, phoenix-like, to be home once again to life.

    Jean Brocklebank

Jean tarplant
Read "A Tarplant Tale" in the Good Times!

Tarplant Inventory June 30, 2013

Tarplant bloomed early this year. We discovered only 16 plants in the southern portion of the grassland, reporting them immediately to the City Parks Department, along with these pictures. On July 16, we attended the Adaptive Management Working Group's field trip and learned that two more tarplant had been located, further south.

We also found some Madia sativa but none of the other coastal tarweed, Deinandra coryumbosa, which bloomed so well in 2012 after the City allowed the entire grassland to be mowed. There was no mowing done in the fall of 2012, nor in the spring of 2013. The tarplant was left on its own, while the City instead focused on its plans to build the Broadway-Brommer paved bike road.

Holocarpha macradenia
Holocarpha macradenia
Holocarpha macradenia
Holocarpha macradenia
Holocarpha macradenia
Holocarpha macradenia
Holocarpha macradenia
Holocarpha macradenia
Madea Sativa
Madia sativa
Madia sativa
Madia sativa

The following poem was sent to us by Fran Gibson, tireless organizer for ORCA
(Organization of Regional Coastal Activitists):

Aphrodite speaks on behalf of the gods:
We are not extremely sorry for the woes of men. We laugh in heaven.
We that walk on Olympus and the steep sky,
And under our feet the lightning barks like a dog:
What we desire, we do. I am the power of Love.
In future days men will become so powerful
That they seem to control the heavens and the earth,
They seem to understand the stars and all science --
Let them beware. Something is lurking hidden.
There is always a knife in the flowers. There is always a lion just beyond the firelight.
Robinson Jeffers (The Cretan Woman) [1954]

About Arana Gulch The Project Our History Photos Links


Friends of the Arana Gulch is an unincorporated association of concerned citizens working for the preservation of Arana Gulch Greenbelt as open space and for the restoration of the rare and native flora and fauna of this coastal terrace prairie habitat.


To monitor construction of the paved Broadway-Brommer bike route, which will cut through the greenbelt and cause irreparable ecological and aesthetic damage, and to insure that the City complies with every one of the many conditions of approval governing the this project.


To advocate for the protection, preservation, and restoration of the coastal terrace prairie habitat as promised in the City's Arana Gulch Master Plan, and the Arana Gulch Habitat Management Plan.


To learn more about Friends of Arana Gulch, and to help us in our work, send an email to: Jean or call 462-4919 (Jean or Michael)

Last Updated 11/23/14