SB 1029, the Great Redwood Trail Act, is a once in a lifetime bill, which will transition a 300+ mile, mostly dilapidated and largely inoperative rail line into a world class hiking, biking and equestrian trail system.
Located in Northern California, running from San Francisco Bay in Marin County to Humboldt Bay in the north, the legacy trail will run through some of the wildest and most scenic landscapes in the United States, traversing through the California redwoods, running alongside oak woodlands and vineyards, and winding through the magnificent Eel River Canyon.
It’s a practical idea to make a world-class recreational asset out of an environmental and economic liability by railbanking the failed rail line.
With the high cost of maintaining the tracks and the shortage of natural resources and goods to transport, privately owned freight rail service to the North Coast died a slow death in the 1970s and 80s.
In 1989, the Legislature created the North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA) in a last-ditch effort to save freight rail traffic on the North Coast. But when the governor at the time vetoed the funding mechanism for the Authority, it never had a chance. And when huge mountain slides covered large swaths of the track in the Eel River Canyon during the rains of 1997, the trains stopped, with most of the line ordered closed by the federal government and never reopened. Since the closure, the condition of many sections of tracks – north of the Sonoma County Airport -have become impassable or have washed out.
With most of the rail line shut down for the last 20 years, NCRA virtually bankrupt, and the estimated cost of over $1 billion dollars to get it running again, there is simply no possibility of that the entire rail line will ever be back in operation. The landslides that closed the railroad in the 1990’s have only gotten worse and the terrain along much of the line remains unstable.
SB 1029 takes these beleaguered rail tracks and turns them into a world class trail system that will run from Marin to Humboldt County. This magnificent trail will attract millions to traverse through ancient redwoods, on top of breathtaking river front bluffs, next to numerous state parks and national forests, and along the shores of two world class bays.
The Trail will be a destination for locals and outdoor enthusiasts worldwide and will be a significant economic driver for the North Coast. California’s outdoor recreational economy is one of the fastest growing sectors of the Golden State’s economy contributing over $92 billion in consumer spending annually.
The NCRA will be dissolved through SB 1029 and the 300 mile long right-of-way will be split in two. The Southern Segment, from Marin to Willits in Mendocino County will be transferred to the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit who will be responsible for creating the southern section of the Great Redwood Trail and for continuing short run freight operations on the portion of the line that is currently active.
The Northern Segment, from Willits to Arcata in Humboldt County will be transferred to the Great Redwood Trail Agency, who is charged with beginning
the community engagement process, the environmental work, railbanking the line, and building the trail. The result is a win/win for the state and North Coast communities, our local economies who are dependent on outdoor recreation and for locals and outdoor enthusiasts alike who will flock to the Trail to enjoy a world class hiking and biking experience.