The best Fred Watson can remember it, the seeds of a regional trail network were first sown in 2007, at a Fort Ord Reuse Authority meeting about clearing land of ordnance, and the necessity to close trails to do so. Though it was a rough day for trail-users, Watson says, the meeting also brought together about 200 of them, and suddenly, a community was born.
Watson later connected with Scott Waltz, a fellow CSU Monterey Bay professor, and after meetings with other Marina leaders – Mayor Bruce Delgado, Councilmember Gail Morton and Planning Commissioner Margaret Davis – a vision materialized: the Fort Ord Rec Trail and Greenway (FORTAG), a network of paved trails from Monterey to Marina that would add an inland counterpart to the coastal Rec Trail.
For years, the two have been conducting outreach and planning the proposed route – about 30 miles, all told – and making sure it is included in any planning documents in Marina, CSUMB, Seaside and elsewhere.
The two estimate the network will cost $40 million to plan and build, $20 million of which will be provided by funds from the passage of Measure X, a countywide measure put forth by the Transportation Agency for Monterey County that passed Nov. 8, and which will raise $600 million in tax revenue to fund various transportation projects in the county over the next 30 years.
“It’s the dawn of a new phase,” Watson says.
“It’s gone from an idea to a regional reality,” Waltz adds.
Presently, the two are pushing as hard as they can to get FORTAG high up on the list of TAMC’s Measure X projects – the measure’s funding will trickle in over time, so the projects will be staggered – and the first steps are a formalized master plan, an environmental impact report and finding grant opportunities to leverage the $20 million.
Debbie Hale, TAMC’s executive director, is optimistic about FORTAG’s chances in securing a Federal Lands Access Program grant, adding that the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission was recently awarded such a grant to build a paved trail along the coast to access the marine sanctuary.
In the case of FORTAG, it combines the sanctuary with the Fort Ord National Monument.
“We’ve got the marine sanctuary on the west and the monument on the east,” Hale says. “It seems like a perfect fit.”
Hale says TAMC will apply for that grant in early 2017, and hopes it can help fund FORTAG’s planning and environmental review, the latter of which she estimates will take a year to 18 months and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. As far as which parts of FORTAG will be built first, Hale says, “It all depends on funding. We’d love to see some kind of ground get broken in five years.”
Watson and Waltz see FORTAG’s central loop – which goes from the Rec Trail and circumvents CSUMB – as a good place to start, as it connects Marina, Seaside, CSUMB and county lands. “It brings everybody together,” Waltz says.