Rail Trail Art Opportunities Plan

Rail Trail Art Opportunities Plan

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Download and read the plan and the staff presentation below - attached in the resources section.

In 2016 the Santa Cruz Arts Commission saw a golden opportunity. The City was embarking on designs for the 3.7 mile segment of the Coastal Rail Trail that runs through Santa Cruz - which is part of a trail that will eventually connect North Coast to Watsonville - a perfect canvas for public art. Planning for public art along the Rail Trail advances the Arts Commission's mission which includes making Santa Cruz an arts destination. Art along the trail is also a good candidate for grant funding - but most important:

It will create an experience that is uniquely Santa Cruz!

What is the Rail Trail Art Opportunities Master Plan?

The Rail Trail Art Opportunities Plan was formally approved on June 13, 2018 by the Arts Commission and on September 25, 2018 by the Santa Cruz City Council. City Staff and the Santa Cruz Arts Commission spent two years developing the Plan. Defined as gateways, corridors and pausing points, the Plan describes 22 opportunities for public art along the Trail - laying the foundation for future calls for art proposals.

Who worked on the Plan and how was input sought?

City staff, the Arts Commission and RRM Design worked together to create the plan - with multiple opportunities for public input:

•August 2016 – Community workshop
•Fall 2016 - Open Streets
•May 2017 - West Side Rail Trail Mixer
•October 2017 – Poetry Contest
•Ongoing - Multiple subcommittee meetings
•250+ people provided comments and input
•65+ people submitted poetry
•200+ poems received (limit of 3 per person)

What did you hear from the community?

Throughout the process we heard support for a variety of art mediums and forms - from sound installations to murals to sculpture, landscape art, and even temporary art. We boiled this down to the following themes: Wonder, Humor, Magic, and Equity & Inclusivity!

What is actually in the plan?

The plan features twenty two locations for art, lays out opportunities and the challenges at each site. This will provide context for future RFQs or RFPs as well as language that can inform grant applications. We can't get grants without a plan!

What is funded so far?

At this time the City has funding for the following elements:

•A glowing "star path" near the Swift St. Courtyard
•Mosaic bollards at Dufour
•Poetry etching or stamping in 32 locations where new sidewalks are poured
•Art treatment or mural on timber lag wall near the wastewater treatment plant

Also in discussion:
•A Mural on the New Leaf garbage enclosure - in collaboration with the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band
•Mural(s) on the Wrigley Building
• Ibis Mountain Bike sculpture

What will the process be for selecting future art?

•RFQs or RFPs for most sites
•Arts Commission Program Guidelines / Best Practices
•Collaborations with stakeholder groups & input from artists
•Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, neighborhood groups etc.
•Informed by community outreach Lens of Equity, Inclusivity & Environmental Justice

You can review the Rail Trail Art Opportunity Plan HERE. The plan includes photos of the trial and many inspiring art examples.

Background information about the Rail Trail project can be found here and here.


Enjoy some of the chosen poetry below - which will be etched in the new sidewalk near Swift Street and Fair Avenues:

Cuando paso por ahí,
Aura me dice un cuento.
Susurra tranquilamente,
Ahiko* está dormido.

Fossils to sea foam to foot prints
# ancient delight

The gifts of sea, trees, trail, trestle, once received, nestle deep.

* ahiko” means “breath of god” in Chumash

A note about the City's commitment to environmental stewardship:

The City and the Arts Commission endeavor to install vibrant art projects that do not harm wildlife or the environment. Per policy, public art projects are reviewed for any possible negative impacts on wildlife and the environment and expert agencies, such as Fish and Wildlife, are consulted as needed.

On June 13, 2018 the Santa Cruz Arts Commission unanimously approved the Rail Trail Art Opportunity Master Plan and on September 25, 2018 the Santa Cruz City Council adopted the plan unanimously.


Segment 7 Final Schematics- City of Santa Cruz - phase one construction.

The City of Santa Cruz and City Arts Commission held our first public workshop on Rail Trail Arts Opportunity Plan workshop on August 11, 2016. “The Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail Network is a 50-mile bicycle and pedestrian pathway (non-motorized ) along the coast of Santa Cruz County, from the San Mateo County line in the north to the Monterey County line at Pajaro. The system’s “spine” will be within the 32-mile Santa Cruz Branch rail right-of-way, adjacent to the train tracks. The rail trail will coexist with existing and potential future train service, and abide by conditions set forth as part of the rail purchase. Many successful rail-with-trail projects can be found across the nation. This configuration has proven to be successful in many other communities and provides safety features to train operations as well as active transportation options for bicyclists and pedestrians." (Per the Coastal Rail Trail website.)

We are planning for many types of art along the 3.7 miles of trail within the City, though at this time, only the 2.1 mile segment between Natural Bridges Drive and Pacific Avenue (Santa Cruz Wharf) is fully funded and anticipated to be built in 2018. Grants are being sought for an additional 1.6 miles to connect between the Boardwalk to 17th Avenue - in coordination with the County of Santa Cruz.

The City of Santa Cruz is the lead agency on design and construction of the Coastal Rail Trail within its jurisdiction and is working in partnership with the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC), owner of the rail right-of-way and responsible for overall implementation of the rail trail project in the county. In addition to design and construction of the trail, the City has also initiated development of an Arts Master Plan. This is a City led project –a project of Santa Cruz City Arts. We have hired RRM Design to help with this effort. As a consultant, RRM is also doing the engineering and design for the segment that goes through Santa Cruz, so it made sense to have them help with the art planning process as well. We are also coordinating with the RTC of course who is coordinating the 50-mile Coastal Rail Trail Project.

The City of Santa Cruz has a 7-person Arts Commission and these appointed volunteers are advisory to staff and City Council regarding art plans. They are/will be highly involved in this effort. Three of the Arts Commissioners were at the brainstorming meeting last week and helped facilitate the discussions.

Over the next few weeks, staff will be working with RRM and the Arts Commission to pull together all the comments and ideas collected on August 11 at the. We will see if there are themes that emerge – or ideas that seem to resonate the most.

We will be taking a first draft of the Arts Master Plan to the Open Streets event on October 9 for the broader public to weigh in.

RRM will make revisions to the Draft Arts Master Plan based on the comments received at the Open Streets event. Then, the final plan will be reviewed by the Arts Commission in a public meeting for adoption – probably in November/December, 2016.

Again, the purpose of our first workshop was to identify opportunities, themes and mediums for projects at 16 +/- opportunity sites preliminarily identified. As funding allows, there would still be one or more calls for proposals – asking artists to respond with more concrete and detailed proposals. This said, we need some kind of a guiding plan in order to go after grant funds – which we will need in order to do anything significant on the trail.

Please let me know if you have any questions. Certainly let me know if you have any further comments or ideas to share!

I will keep you all updated on upcoming steps and important dates.