Beth Tobey

Santa Cruz Rail Trail Art Opportunities Master Plan formally approved!

Beth Tobey @ 10/2/2018

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 Master 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 scupture

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 Master 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.

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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.