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Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | monterey county

Winning in a Walk

June 2011
originally printed in 1980

by Peter Scott

When I first came to Santa Cruz 14 years ago one of my first acquisitions was a car. I needed it to commute. After all, UCSC was several miles from where I lived, and I had to get to work somehow. I never dreamed of doing it otherwise. Then the parking fees began to increase, the clarity of the air began to decrease, and there was talk of widening the campus roads to four lanes. I calculated the expense of operating my car, and joined the movement. I decided that I wasn't going to buy a parking permit.

It was a revelation. New worlds opened up for me. I started riding my old bicycle up the hill, an exercise which I viewed as a kind of morning penance to atone for my sins. However, I then got to ride down the hill at the end of the day, and that was real glory— suddenly I'd found a great way to end the working day.

Once in a while, when I was too exhausted, or when rain threatened, I rode the bus—a nice variation. Sometimes when I was waiting for the bus, a friend would give me a lift, offering me not only transportation, but a chance to socialize, a chance to help knit the fabric of the community.

Recently, I've taken to walking. Now I live closer to the campus, less than three miles from the Natural Sciences buildings, about a 45-minute walk. There are several routes, and I can choose one to suit my mood. One of my favorites leads from the campus entrance up past the Farm Project, through the Lower Quarry past the predatory bird house, and then suddenly into one of the canyons through the marine terraces among the intimacy of the redwoods and bays along one of Cowell's old railways. It is isolated from the urban scene save for the innocuous presence of the campus sewer line. Farther up there is a branching of the routes, and my path lifts me out of the canyons to Kerr Hall and the Science Buildings. I arrive refreshed. It feels somehow appropriately civilized.

A couple of weeks ago my friend Bill Burke told me about another route which leads up from the Barn Theater through a turnstile and over the fields past the arboretum. It provides a completely different feeling—out in the open in the fresh air among the meadowlarks and killdeers, with fine views over Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay to the south and west.

Of course one is apt to feel the press of time. It seems sinful to spend up to an hour and a half walking for pleasure on a working day when one could do it in a third of the time in a car, especially when one knows that most working folks aren't provided with such splendid opportunities for walking to work. And so sometimes I try to reduce the guilt by riding my bicycle to the campus entrance, which has the effect of slicing the one-way trip to a mere half hour—not too much more than the car trip or the bus ride. I also tell myself that because of the walking, my working effectiveness is increased. At least that's the way it seems.

How neat it would be if we could suddenly create a network of footpaths through our community, so that more of us could easily experience the pleasures and benefits of walking to work, to shopping places, to friends' homes, or simply out for a Sunday morning. In some places, such paths already exist, like down the middle of Bay Street along the stream, or across the river on the footbridge and through the park to the County Government Center, or along Westcliff Drive. Perhaps with increased consciousness on our part, we can more effectively urge our governments to plan for such paths. Our beautiful setting demands them, and we deserve them.


Reprinted from The Ventana March 15, 1980. Originally printed in the Environmental Council Newsletter, February 1980. Peter Scott is now retired and may be seen biking around Santa Cruz.

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