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   Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | santa cruz county
Plans proposed for Nisene Marks State Park would violate deed restrictions


Nisene Marks
In October the State Parks Department submitted to the public three alternative plans for the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park. All three alternatives fail to base land use designations on the carrying capacity of sensitive resources such as erosive soils and steepness of grades. Instead, the level of protection of resources has been arbitrarily designated. In addition, each of the alternatives violates the intent of the Marks family which donated much of the park property in 1963 to the Nature Conservancy which conveyed it to the State of California in 1965.

Agnes, Herman and Andrew Marks stipulated in the gift deed that the Park would be named in honor of their mother, Nisene. It was the family's intention that the park remain largely undeveloped and deed restrictions specify that the property "be preserved for all time as a natural preserve." The deed also states that "there shall be no horseback riding . . . that the property shall be held in its natural state . . . limited to camping, nature study, hiking and associated activities."

A reversionary clause states that a breach of conditions could forfeit the property to the grantors. In other words, if State Parks does not abide by the restrictions, the property could revert to the Nature Conservancy. This provision has been tested twice. Once in 1966 when State Parks wanted to construct a dam on Aptos Creek and flood at least 100 acres of the park and again in 1980 when the County General Plan map depicted a 1,000 acre reservoir in the park. In both cases the dam idea was dropped.

Proposed plans allow biking on trails

All three proposed alternatives allow bike use (multi-use) on trails above the steel bridge over Aptos Creek. For more than 35 years bikes have been permitted only on the fire road above the bridge. The Sierra Club does not have a problem with bicycles on the fire road which extends the full length of the park and into the Soquel Demonstration Forestómore than 12 miles.

In the lower park where bicyclists have been allowed on narrow trails, they have caused serious erosion and degradation of the trails, and dangerous biker/hiker conflicts. In addition, cyclists have carved illegal "thrill trails" in steep areas making them prone to erosion. During winter rains, deeply grooved and rutted scars become small streams which carry sediment into creek beds damaging steelhead habitat. State Parks has not been successful in enforcing responsible bicycle use in the lower park. For these reasons, the Sierra Club supports maintaining existing "hikers only" policies on trails above the steel bridge.

The state has an ethical and legal obligation to honor the terms of the Marks' gift deed. This summer, The Ventana reported on another attack on the Marks family legacy by St. Johns College and California State University [Vol. 40 No. 3]. Such attacks on deed restrictions could discourage future gifts of property if allowed to succeed.

Please write Rusty Areias and send copies to the Nature Conservancy and the consultants (RHAA) who are preparing the plan. Addresses on this page.

Your letter is needed now.


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