Coast Dairies State Park, a hidden treasure nestled in Santa Cruz County, California, boasts a seven-mile stretch of coastline and approximately 7,000 acres of prime coastal lands. The park lies in proximity to the city of Davenport and is managed as a part of Wilder Ranch State Park, to its south.
The Lay of the Land
The park is a series of “pocket beaches,” known for their rugged beauty. The California Coastal Trail, a hiking path that runs along the top of the bluff, ties these beaches together. The beaches in question are Sharktooth, Bonny Doon, Yellow Bank, Laguna Creek, and Panther.
However, the state park land remains largely undeveloped. It spans a five-mile segment of Highway 1, both north and south of Davenport. In 2014, the Bureau of Land Management bought a 5,800 acres tract of land on the inland side of the highway, adjacent to the coastal parcels. Some of the land east of the highway continues to be used for farming, but a significant part of it has become the Cotoni-Coast Dairies unit of the California Coastal National Monument.
The Gift of Preservation
The coastal lands on the ocean side of Highway 1 were bequeathed to the California State Parks in 2006. The primary reason behind this generous donation was to prevent these lands from becoming a high-end housing development.
The Trust for Public Land, a non-profit organization, purchased the land and gifted it to the California State Parks and Recreation Department, ensuring that public access to the shoreline in this area would remain uninterrupted. It’s still unclear whether this will eventually become an official state park, but this state land spans about a six-mile segment of Highway 1, both north and south of the small town of Davenport in Santa Cruz County.
A Peek into the Past
Coast Dairies State Park is in the unceded homelands of the Awaswas-speaking Ohlone Tribe known as the Uypi, who stewarded these lands since time immemorial. The arrival of European settlers led to the removal and displacement of the Uypi. Today, their descendants continue their stewardship and presence here, in partnership with State Parks.
The rocky shoreline was privately owned for generations since the Respini and Moretti families founded Coast Dairies and Land Co. in the 1860s after emigrating from Switzerland. The non-profit Trust of Public Land purchased the property in the late 1990s with help from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation after a Los Angeles developer proposed building 139 luxury homes there.
A Diverse Ecosystem
The area supports a diverse range of habitats and wildlife. You can find coho salmon, steelhead trout, California red-legged frogs, mule deer, and mountain lions, among others. A phased approach to recreation development will help protect the property’s sensitive biological and cultural resources. The plan identifies half the area as core habitat for fish and wildlife that will have limited recreational access.
The park offers a host of recreational activities for visitors. From exploring tide pools and rock formations to surfing and kiteboarding, the beaches are a haven for adventure seekers. The trails provide a chance to hike through dunes and wetlands, offering a spectacular view of the surroundings.
Regulations and Responsibilities
Visitors to the park must adhere to several regulations. Dogs are not allowed in the park. Fires are not permitted, and alcohol is not allowed on the beach or in day-use areas. Fishing enthusiasts are required to carry a license.
In addition to following the regulations, visitors are also encouraged to Recreate Responsibly. This involves checking the Recreate Responsibly page before visiting to protect themselves, their families, friends, and communities.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) collaborates with local tribes on cultural and archeological surveys. This collaboration aims to develop recreation trails that ensure that important cultural resources are not impacted. Additionally, the BLM is working with local tribes and community partners to put together educational and interpretive materials that provide an indigenous perspective.
A Gem for the Future
The Coast Dairies State Park is a treasure trove of natural beauty, cultural history, and recreational opportunities. The concerted efforts by different stakeholders to preserve this land have not only saved it from becoming a housing development but also ensured that future generations can enjoy its pristine beauty. Whether you are a nature lover, a history buff, or an adventure enthusiast, this park has something for everyone. It stands as a testament to the power of community action and the importance of preserving our natural and cultural heritage.