The Cotoni-Coast Dairies property in Santa Cruz County has been closed since it became a National Monument over two years ago. Now, the public has a chance to weigh in on what activities they want for the nearly 6,000 acres of open space.
Signs that say “no public access” dot the boundary of the Cotoni-Coast Dairies property. A big, rusty gate blocks the road in. Just beyond it, cows graze on rolling grasslands that rise up into ridges of Redwood trees. Located on the coast, the property has sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean.
“It's the magic of California,” says Steve Reed.
Reed leans against the locked gate. He’s with the Sempervirens Fund. The nonprofit worked to get this designated as a national monument.
Reed says when it comes to the future of Cotoni-Coast Dairies, protecting the land is most important.
“It's conservation first, recreation and access second,” he says.
The Bureau of Land Management, or BLM, owns the property. In 2017, President Obama added it to the California Coastal National Monument. Since then, public access has been limited to guided hikes. But now, the BLM is asking people for input on the future of Cotoni-Coast Dairies.
“We've received over 100 public comments so far. So there's definitely a lot of interest in the property,” says Ben Blom, Field Manager for the BLM Central Coast Field Office.
Right now, the BLM is working on the plan for how the land will be used, including what activities will be allowed.
“We've heard a lot from the public who are interested in hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking. We've heard about some other activities that we weren't as familiar with, you know, paragliding, mushroom foraging, other things,” says Blom.
But the plan isn’t just about recreation. Blom says it’s also about being good neighbors to the nearby communities like Davenport and protecting the property’s resources.
“Everything kind of has to fit together, so that includes livestock grazing, how we're going to manage for biological resources and cultural resources, as well as public access and recreation,” Blom says.
Matt De Young would like to see mountain biking at Cotoni-Coast Dairies.
He rides down a new trail at the nearby Wilder Ranch State Park just south of Cotoni-Coast Dairies. The trail he’s on is multi-use, so it’s for hikers, horseback riders and mountain bikers.
De Young would like to see trails just like this at the National Monument, but also some that are exclusively for mountain bikers.
“It's just an awesome opportunity to build a really thoughtful trail network. We're lacking a trail network that's really been designed from the ground up,” says De Young.
De Young is Executive Director of the Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz. The group has been encouraging its 2,700 members to get involved in the planning process for Cotoni-Coast Dairies.
“A lot of people don't understand the planning process. We've also been trying to explain how it works the time frame for it and really just convey the idea that hey we're as the public we have a say we have a voice and that we should use that,” he says.
There’s no timeline for when Cotoni-Coast Dairies will open to the public. When it does, Steve Reed believes there will be room for both conservation and recreation.
“I've been a resident here for 50 years. Knowing that mountain bikers and hikers and horsemen, people that I've known all my life, are the ones that are most anxious to not only be on the property, but to take care of it, it is sort of an extra bonus. But that’s because we live in Monterey Bay,” Reed says.
BLM Central Coast Field Office
Attn: Cotoni-Coast Dairies RMPA/EA
940 2nd Avenue
Marina, CA 93933-6009