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   Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | santa cruz county

Settlement reached in Nisene Marks lawsuit

Bicyclists may use fire road

A quiet trail beckons hikers on a misty day in The Forest of Nisene Marks. Photo: Tom Jacobs www.tomjacobsphotography.com

 

According to a settlement reached in April between Citizens for the Preservation of the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park and California State Parks, bicyclists will be able to use the Aptos Creek Fire Road. Potential loss of the use of the fire road prompted settlement negotiations between State Parks and Citizens for the Preservation of the Forest of Nisene Marks.

As reported in The Ventana, the December 10 ruling by Superior Court Judge Judy Holzer Hersher banned mountain bikes in the portion of the park dedicated by the Marks family as a violation of the Marks family's wishes as stipulated in the deed. The ruling did not include an exception for the fire road.

The settlement requires State Parks to revise the General Plan in accordance with the court's interpretation of the deed, honoring the Marks family's wishes that the deeded portions of the park be "preserved for all time as a natural preserve" and the land use "limited to camping, nature study, hiking, and associated activities." The settlement lays out the compromise as follows: "With the exception of the Aptos Creek Fire Road, the General Plan may not authorize bikes on the Dedicated Property."

By agreeing to the settlement, State Parks chose not to appeal the judge's decision, and the Citizens for the Preservation of the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park agreed to allow mountain bikes on the Aptos Creek Fire Road.

The Santa Cruz Group of the Sierra Club actively participated in this issue by taking a firm position against the adoption of the General Plan for Nisene Marks as originally drafted by State Parks because of the many inadequacies of the plan.

Attorneys for State Parks argued that the Marks family's deeds had expired because they had not been extended after 30 years. The judge's decision against that argument offers assurance to future land donors that the state will not be able to circumvent donors' wishes for how their generous gifts of land are to be used.

In reviewing the settlement, Santa Cruz Group of the Sierra Club expressed satisfaction with the final outcome and the assurance it offers to future land donors that their wishes will be followed. "If the wishes of the donors could easily be ignored, donations of special land will likely become few and far between," said Bill Parkin, attorney for the plaintiffs.

 


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