Plans proposed for Nisene Marks State Park
would violate deed restrictions
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
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
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
Your letter is needed now.
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