FORT Case Study

Three million people a year visit Santa Cruz County for its beauty, from the whale watching to the sprawling beaches and redwood forests; it’s the county’s signature ecotourism that has fostered an appreciation for nature and helped local businesses to thrive. When the Santa Cruz coastal rail corridor was transferred into public ownership through its purchase by the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) after ten years of negotiations, Friends of the Rail & Trail (FORT) immediately created a new chapter of its work to help turn it into “The Rail Trail”—a 32-mile stretch of land that would host a panoramic, paved bike and walking trail connecting coastal Santa Cruz County’s diverse neighborhoods. With half of the county’s population located within one mile of the Rail Trail, the project would reduce traffic (and carbon emissions) and provide a safe and healthy travel option for school going children as well as a space where families could spend quality time together. FORT knew that this bike-, pedestrian-, and wheelchair-accessible path would be a valuable addition to the community (and the planet), but needed support in scaling their outreach and fundraising efforts to make it happen.

Ecology Action leveraged its expertise in strategic planning, its community outreach, its strong public agency partnership, and its organizational capacity in order to help FORT establish initiatives that would empower the group to take the lead. Ecology Action’s sponsorship of FORT has led to a huge outpouring of community support, brought in numerous funding sources, and aligned influential public figures with FORT’s mission.

“Ecology Actions has such a long track record of building successful programs…which gave FORT greater resources to support the Rail and Trail projects, and the organizational structure that has enabled it to do effective work.”