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Santa Cruz, California Central Coast

Where change is the natural order.

A Santa Cruz Gallery and Story

Santa Cruz may be the most beautiful place in the world. The setting is grander than a fairy tale. Mountains, rivers and forests come to an endless sea in a symphony.

Into this awesome scene has come a curious history of human intervention. Ignoble gluttony tried to destroy it, and render it ugly. Yet it has become a haven for nontraditional people who take refuge in its uniqueness.

The effect is a strong presence of change, and an ardent renovation of its physical glory.

Situated at the top of great Monterey Bay and over the mountain from the tumult of technology in Silicon Valley, Santa Cruz draws fire and passion. It is the eyestorm of the future.

Change in Santa Cruz is constant. Earthquakes and erosion. Influxes of new and different people are like tides that flood, then draw way back to reveal some secret life.

Coastal mudstone invites playful sculptures by the sea.

(photo at right) A view of the town and Monterey Bay from Pogonip, another amazing urban park typical of Santa Cruz.

It is just a small town, but a major metropolitan center. The region is known as Santa Cruz. The City itself is core Santa Cruz, but the much larger area reaching from San Mateo’s coast, the summit of the mountains that barely keeps Silicon Valley away, and down the coast to the Pajaro Valley is the State of Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz is so awesome, it looks powerful, but is fragile. And, humans have been perfidious to it. The scars they wrecked on this wondrous place have seared souls of the people here now.

Now there is a taking back by them that is reaching new heights of people caring about where they live.


Santa Cruz is ‘way out there … in front

In a very un-self conscious way, Santa Cruz is pushing the cultural envelope on many fronts.

Photo by Randy Widera

Fusion and organic cuisine took strong holds here before anywhere else. Real Estate developments have been stopped by grassroots actions since the 1960s. Now it is the custom here. These people want trails, butterfly habitats and places to play with their dogs. They love this place enough to pay for that.

Recently, Santa Cruzans successfully beseeched their City Council to not allow huge national chain stores in their town center because they support their small locally owned shops. They said they did not want somebody in New York who sells display promotions to publishers to decide their reading tastes.

Evidence of Difference is Everywhere


Dogs have their own beach -and field and woods. Throughout the town hate and discrimination has been outlawed, and officially decreed Nuclear Free by the city council. Women have self empowered to a higher level. A museum for surfing… a migration festival that celebrates butterflies, pioneers in covered wagons, and Mexican migrant workers… Difference in Santa Cruz is everywhere.

Evening Santa Cruz ritual, photo by Don Nielsen

Long ago, many of the Indians at the Mission decided they were not going to be enslaved by the new culture. Theirs was the only successful rebellion in California against the Europeans. That set the stage for dissent, and out-of-the-ordinary has become the custom.

The City declared itself a Freeport for Nicaragua during the Sandinista rebellion. The Woman’s Movement claimed this turf when it chased the Miss California pageant out of town. Peace activists stopped the US Navy from playing war games. Hippies are common in town. It’s like a living museum of movements.

Often it gets so outrageously beautiful, with bold pieces of nature, in the ocean, the sky and the mountains colliding and mixing, that people, all types together, come out to gawk and glow in it.

Santa Cruz
Open Space Alliance

Elegent Tern invasions are common faire at Castle Beach

Ignoble Past At one time all this magnificence inspired a gluttony. The redwood forests were raped in a 40 year frenzy. Businesses popped up that specialized in destroying the land. Grand schemers tried to make grandiose real estate developments. One even towed a cement boat to Seacliff to made a gambling casino. A carnival like amusement park claimed the most beautiful scene of all – on a point where the picturesque San Lorenzo River meets the Pacific Ocean.

Now a roller coaster dominates the view of ocean front Santa Cruz. It’s an atrocity, and serves as a symbol of why environmentally conscientious Santa Cruzans are now vigilant about protecting their setting.

An irony is the roller coaster and the amusement park brought a tourist trade. Locals began to think there was business in attracting people to Santa Cruz.

A university came to Santa Cruz, and with it a new population of folks who saw the wonder of Santa Cruz. At the same time, the late 1960s, a new generation of people were earnestly raising their consciousness. Together, this rare convergence of a new university with a twist of culture created a powerful political exuberance. These new forces looked around at the natural beauty of what was left of Santa Cruz, and said, “let’s save it.”

hange became the natural order

The student body at the University of California at Santa Cruz were different. Among the brainiest, kids chose the new school because there would be no grades, and very little other tradition. They were so irrelevant of tradition they officially named their mascot, “Slug.” After the beloved endemic Banana Slug

Their involvement in the electoral process has caused tremors in the hitherto untouched business power clique. They have been demonized in hissing, scathing political rhetoric. But, wonderfully, the very people doing the scathing, are the ones most proud of the electoral accomplishments of the new people.

Interestingly, after the Progressives took political control, they completely re-aligned policy making and rebuilt the downtown after the devesting 1989 earthquake -then they became the establishment. More change.

Santa Cruz, the town, is now Hate Free – and Nuclear Free – by official decree, and it is building a park in the middle of its business area for any kind of people to just be in – to sit around, or to protest if they’d like. And the town council voted to not allow big “box” stores anymore in town.

It is a place of amazing nature experiences. Mother Gray Whale with her calf swim in the surf. Thousands of Sooty Shearwaters, a sea bird, fishing as a team, stir up the sea into a froth just yards off shore.

Celebrants at Migration Festival, Natural Bridges State Park – Photo by Randy Widera

Alba Library is in the redwoods two miles above Hwy 9 and Ben Lomand. Originally a schoolhouse, it was built by the neighbors in 1895, and closed in 1942. The library is open Tuesday afternoons, 2 to 4.

Call Margaret Walter, the Librarian, 336.8151.

Because of the curious blend of life styles and progressive policies, political wags like to poke fun at Santa Cruz.

The reality, tho, is Santa Cruz is a very pleasant place to be. It is earnestly restoring cultural, historical and environmental integrity. Ecological and historical preservation efforts have produced results that make everybody proud of being part of Santa Cruz.

It is under siege now from a new kind of people. Silicon Valley transplants have been steadily threatening the laid back mentality of Santa Cruz. The story of change is ever going on in Santa Cruz.

Sunrise at New Brighton

12,000 feet deep canyons in Monterey Bay cause cold water upwellings that produce fog. The rich canyons are responsible for great proliferations of sea vegetation, animals and birds.

New Brighton State Beach is home to a Monterey Pine forest and a fine campground. Immediately south of this spot there is another State Park – Seacliff Beach – also, with a campground. Here is where the cement boat was sunk, a pier runs out to it, and these days it is used for fishing. The park has an excellent historical museum.

Cowell Beach is base camp for beginning surfers. This is a principal Santa Cruz beach just west (or, north) of the wharf.

Cowells were pioneers, and have left their name prominently on Santa Cruz. Land they left to a charitable foundation was used to start of the University of California Santa Cruz. And, the last Cowell, Harry, donated the land and forest of old growth Redwoods in Felton to California for a state park in memory of his father, Henry.

Psyche and body in Santa Cruz are tied to the ocean. The water is everywhere, and usually on the mind of the inhabitants. Many plan their life around the best times to surf. Plenty of other locals head for the water at every opportunity.


It’s been an arduous undertaking to make Santa Cruz a pantheon for outdoor enthusiasts. The payoff is great: Magnificent hikes, wildlife preserves, four state parks within the city limits, and seven in the immediate area.

California Coastal towns have lots of grand Victorian homes. The Redwood loggers earned big money, and had plenty of lumber. When the bankers and real estate developers moved in they competed for grandeur. Santa Cruz has an inordinate share of Victorian masterpieces –particularly Queen Annes. But, here more than anywhere, there is a very visible infusion of other styles. This is due to the proximity to Santa Clara Valley -which has produced many wealthy people over the last millennium who wanted a home at the beach.



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Family farming is a prominent way of life in Santa Cruz County. There are great debates for preserving this tradition in the face of a population onslaught from Silicon Valley.

A collective will to shape its own future is taking shape in the mountain forest by the sea, and change will always be in the air.

Capitola, another eclectic Santa Cruz place, is a den of nostalgia and Venetian makebelieve, nooked in a pocket of spectacular scenery. We’re preparing a page with a gallery of scenes and stories.

Also in various stages of preparation are other Santa Cruz communities: Davenport, Bonny Doon, Felton, Ben Lomand, Boulder Creek, Aptos, Watsonville and Corralitos. If you have comments, or want to make a contributions, please contact us.

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Five and a half million people a year visit Santa Cruz State Parks. They are vibrant places with wonderful interaction for people to learn and luxuriate in nature. Much of the credit for their success goes to Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks.

Santa Cruz has 12 State Parks in the immediate vicinity – 4 are within the city limits.

Visit Natural Bridges State Beach

Hike: Skyline To The Sea Trail

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Most of the world’s Brussels Sprouts are grown in Santa Cruz County

Where you can order Brussels Sprouts and Artichokes from Santa Cruz County: Artichokes Delivered

Lighthouse Dogs

For those of use who understand our true purpose in life –which, of course, is to be at one with a dog on a beach–or, in a field with just cool people and their dogs –this is a website to love. There are more dogs here than ever seen before in one place.

Contains an extraordinary link directory of resources for everything having to do with your pal.  



One of the best bird clubs in America is here. Check it out:
Santa Cruz Bird Club

A grassroots community group to restore a classic California coastal watershed. Go to Friends of Soquel Creek

An arroused citizenry fomed in the Fall of 2001 to protect diving birds from fishing dangers:
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All Content in our Pelican Network pages is copyrighted. Permission to use it is freely given with the single provisio that you advance good will about nature. Pelican Network, Jack Ellwanger, Editor

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The Butterfly Center at Santa Cruz Park Frineds. Books from the online Park Store. See the Monarch Miracle in the Natural Bridges Sanctuary.

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