March/April 2013 issue

What's New at the Ecological Reserve

Terris Kasteen, California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 7:30 p.m.

Bonny Doon School Multipurpose Room
Ice Cream Grade and Pine Flat Road

What’s New at the Ecological Reserve

Terris Kasteen is the new local representative of the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. At the March 13 RBDA meeting she will present information on the Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve, including which trails are open to the public, and current projects such as creating fencing along Martin Road, building a kiosk by the Reserve parking lot, conduct restoration work at Reggiardo Creek, trail maintenance and removing invasive plants.

The ecological reserve is unique and is made up of Santa Margarita Sandstone, a consolidation of marine sediments and compressed mud, rock and sand. When broken down by weathering the sandstone becomes part of the Zayante soil series, which covers about 3% of Santa Cruz County, or about 8,000 acres, including most of the soil found in Ben Lomond, Quail Hollow, Felton, Scotts Valley and Bonny Doon. The soil supports 2 plant communities unique to this area, the Maritime Coast Range Ponderosa Pine forest and the Silverleaf Manzanita Mixed Chaparral.

The California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (formerly "Fish and Game") maintains native fish, wildlife, plant species and natural communities for their intrinsic and ecological value and their benefits to people. This includes habitat protection and maintenance in a sufficient amount and quality to ensure the survival of all species and natural communities. The department is also responsible for the recreational, commercial, scientific and educational uses of the properties under its management.

Why the Moon Rocks Are Special

Recently there has been discussion on the “Bonny Doon Little Slice of Heaven” Facebook page about hiking on the “Moon Rocks” in the Ecological Reserve. We asked Val Haley, coordinator of the Ecological Reserve docents, to explain why the area is closed to public access:

"The “Moon Rocks” at the Reserve are an ecologically significant resource that merit special management and protection. These rock outcrops of Santa Margarita sandstone were formed and uplifted approximately 15 million years ago. The rock outcrops are part of what is called sand hills habitat, which only occurs in Santa Cruz County and nowhere else on the planet. Due to their unique soil characteristics, special status plant species are present that would be poor competitors elsewhere, and therefore depend on the rock outcrop habitat. The following regionally rare species are associated with the rock outcrops at the Reserve: Santa Cruz cypress, rhododendron rose bay, Bonny Doon manzanita/silver-leaf manzanita, bear grass, and coast range ponderosa pine. In addition, an unusual solitary Kincaid’s bee also nests in the rocks.

"The high level of past and current human use is threatening the persistence of the rare species listed above, and the climbing activities and carving are eroding the rocks. Past misuse of the area has been painting and carving of rocks, throwing glass bottles and fireworks from the top, trash, broken glass, and rare trees cut for camp fires, etc. The Martin Fire in June 2008 started at the top of the Moon Rocks, most likely from human activity. The current low level of Calif. Dept. of Fish & Wildlife’s funding for personnel is not enough to have daily warden patrols. Given the large amount of public use, the rock outcrops have been closed as a protective measure. Trespassing fines are expensive, so beware. Portions of the rocks are also on private property. Subject to permission from Fish & Wildlife, the rocks on the Reserve are open for scientific research and educational field trips."

Mushroom Recap

Local resident and extremely knowledgeable mycologist Henry P. Young presented some very useful information on mushroom identification at the Jan. 16 RBDA meeting. For example, it is best to store mushrooms in a brown paper bag or waxed paper rather than plastic, so they can breathe. Plastic smothers the fungus and makes it turn slimy. 

The variety of mushrooms in Bonny Doon is impressive and numbers in the thousands. All mushrooms can be handled safely but it is not wise to eat any without positive identification, which is done by examining the entire specimen, including the spores. Henry takes the mushroom cap and stalk home and places it right side up on paper that is half white and half black, so the spores will be visible when they fall regardless of whether they are light or dark. Last year one resident who was curious about the fungi growing on her property advertised in the Battle Mountain News for a mycologist and Henry was kind enough to come and identify what she had.

Mushrooms are either edible or fall into the category of the “lose your lunch bunch,” in Henry’s evocative words. One hopes that it is only one’s lunch that is lost. Not all of the edible fungi are tasty. Some are reminiscent of cardboard in both flavor and consistency. The toxic varieties contain only a handful of toxins; Henry is on the call list at local hospitals for consultation should the wrong kind of fungus be eaten.

Different varieties of mushroom are found in autumn, winter and spring. One of the best times of year for them is November and December because cold weather slows or ends most of the blooms, but where there is rain mushrooms can usually be found.  The RBDA is very thankful to Henry for his presentation and proud to have him as a resident.

To foray deeper into fungus go to

Court Reaffirms EIR for UCSC North Campus Water Flawed

After a rehearing, the California 6th District Court of Appeal again ruled that the City of Santa Cruz must re-do the Environmental Impact Report for UCSC’s and the city’s applications to extend water service to the North Campus.

The city and university asked for a rehearing of the decision it issued on Nov. 27. On Feb. 19, the court once again said that the EIR didn’t consider enough alternatives, and their environmental impacts, to extending the city’s challenged water supply to 240 acres of the North Campus. This huge development—UCSC wants to build over 3 million square feet of dorms, classrooms and laboratories—is, of course, in Bonny Doon.

As we wrote in the January Highlander, the ruling blocks a decision on the applications by LAFCO, the Local Agency Formation Commission, without which the project can’t proceed.

The suit was brought by Habitat and Water Caretakers (HAWC), a local citizens’ group, headed by Bonny Dooner Don Stevens. The Appeals Court overturned a 2011 ruling by Santa Cruz Superior Court Judge Timothy Volkmann. In its opinion following the rehearing, the Appellate Court wrote again: “By failing to mention, discuss, or analyze any feasible alternatives, the draft EIR and the final EIR failed to satisfy the informational purpose of CEQA [the California Environmental Quality Act], which included providing LAFCO with relevant information.” It specifically mentioned that the alternative of reducing the projects’ size, which would require less water, was never analyzed.

“This is a real vindication of those who have been tirelessly raising concerns about the university's plans,” says Gary Patton, attorney for the Community Water Coalition, which has been fighting the applications. “In the very best case, the UCSC administrators will rethink their sprawl strategy for the future growth of the campus.”

Any LAFCO decision will have to await a new EIR, which will require new public hearings and new certification, which could take many months and be open again to legal challenge.

Meanwhile, our 3rd district supervisor, Neal Coonerty, who has consistently supported UCSC’s application, has become, once again, chair of the Board of Supervisors, which entitled him to select which supervisors serve on LAFCO. Neal is one of them. The term of Supervisor John Leopold, who has been an advocate of strict conditions on delivering water to the North Campus and championing the interests of his own Live Oak constituents, who are served by Santa Cruz Water Dept., expires in May. Coonerty decided to demote Leopold to alternate and replace him with newly elected Second District Supervisor Zach Friend (Aptos and environs), thus possibly weakening the opposition to the water service extension.

Since Supervisor Leopold has been heavily involved during the many months LAFCO has been considering the applications, and represents consumers whose water supply will be heavily affected by the decision, we feel that it is only fair and sensible that Supervisor Friend defer in favor of his alternate whenever LAFCO takes up the matter again, so that Supervisor Leopold can have a vote.

CEMEX Chapter of Bonny Doon History Ends

The purchase a few months ago of CEMEX’s limestone quarry and nearby properties by Bonny Dooner JoeBen Bevirt marks the end of an era here.

For more than a century the cement business has had a significant impact on Bonny Doon and Davenport, both positive and negative. It brought jobs and aid to local schools and other institutions, but it also destroyed scores of acres of the environment, and polluted the air with noise and dust.

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the cement company’s owners were faced with deteriorating quality of the limestone in the quarry southwest of Smith Grade, and wanted to expand it to the east.

The RBDA fought against it because it would have annihilated dozens of acres of redwood forest and the plants and animals that lived there; threatened to degrade the Santa Cruz Water Dept.’s large spring on Liddell Creek; and worried its Smith Grade neighbors, who feared their properties would be made unlivable. By challenging the expansion and forcing RMC Lone Star, and then the successor owner, CEMEX, to conduct extensive tests of the potential impacts, the RBDA Board and the city water dept. kept the project on hold until the 2008 recession knocked out the economic underpinnings of the cement plant and CEMEX decided to close it.

Last year, an alliance of land conservation organizations headed by Sempervirens Fund purchased CEMEX’s 8,500 acre timber properties stretching along San Vicente Creek.

JoeBen Bevirt, an entrepreneur and inventor who grew up on Last Chance Road and now lives on Smith Grade, told The Highlander that purchasing the quarry and nearby CEMEX properties has been a “lifelong dream.” Along with the 272 acre quarry, he purchased four residential properties, three of which have houses, which lie in between Smith Grade and the quarry, and which he intends to rent out; and two parcels totaling about 50 acres northeast of Smith Grade. That leaves a 170 acre undeveloped parcel along Laguna Creek as the last CEMEX property in Bonny Doon.

Reclamation of the quarry remains the obligation of CEMEX, and is expected to take several years. Details of its execution are still being negotiated with the County.

JoeBen said he has started working to remove invasive species, especially French broom, and a lot of garbage that has accumulated on the residential properties.

As for the long-term plan for the quarry property, JoeBen says “My dream is to live there the rest of my life,” though he estimates it might be as much as 5 to 10 years before he builds a house there. On the 50 acres northwest of Smith Grade he plans to plant some orchards, and perhaps raise some farm animals.

“I want to be good neighbor,” he says, so if there is anything that disturbs people he encourages them to contact him at 650-533-6335, or email joeben(at)

Quarry Reclamation: Still the Pits

More than 2 years ago, when CEMEX closed the cement plant in Davenport and ceased limestone mining operations, the clock began running on its obligation to reclaim the quarry as required by the State’s Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMARA).

The act details a comprehensive surface mining and reclamation policy and regulates surface mining operations to assure that adverse environmental impacts are minimized and mined lands are reclaimed to a usable condition. Stabilizing and reclaiming the areas impacted by decades of mining operations is a massive undertaking, but CEMEX has done little to advance the reclamation process over the past 2 years. Only the shale quarry (west of Bonny Doon Road, south of the Redwood Meadows development) has seen reclamation efforts so far.

It’s the county's responsibility to enforce SMARA requirements. In a 2010 letter to CEMEX, the county identified additional problems and asked for more technical information to inform an application for an Amended Reclamation Plan. In addition to the limestone quarry and associated settlement ponds, the streambed that was filled beneath the conveyor line will need restoration too. Enough additional work has been identified that CEMEX was required to increase the size of its financial surety bond to $8.7 million.

County staff has been extremely lenient while CEMEX dragged its feet and offered excuses, in part attributable to negotiations associated with the prospective sale to JoeBen Bevirt, which could change some aspects of the reclamation plans. Staff finally took a firmer stand in a February 1 letter, giving CEMEX a March 31 deadline to submit technical documents addressing restoration needs and slope instability. If sufficient, the County will begin an environmental review leading to a public hearing.

Of course, reclamation doesn’t mean restoring the redwood, oak and madrone forest that once existed at the quarry site. The 40-acre tiered pit will remain, but topsoil banked by the various quarry owners over the years will be laid down and native chaparral vegetation planted.

Santa Cruz Biotech Still Getting People’s Goats

Back in 2000, Santa Cruz Biotechnology (SCB) was forced by the California Coastal Commission to move nearly 2,000 goats from its Back Ranch Road facility because their manure was running down into the yards of the Coast Road neighborhood below it, and because it didn’t have the required building permits.

Although the goats wound up in Shandon, in San Luis Obispo County off Lost Hills Highway (Hwy. 46), troubles for the company have continued. The firm still does its lab work in Santa Cruz, mostly employing newly graduated college students, who do not give the company glowing reviews on various employment websites.

Earlier this year the company was sued by an animal rights group for alleged violations of California’s animal welfare laws. SCB injects its animals, which now reportedly number about 10,000 goats and about 6,000 rabbits, with human peptides, which causes the goats to produce antibodies used in medical research, which are then removed by draining and filtering the animals’ blood.

The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture has also filed complaints citing more than 20 violations from 2007 to 2012, including, according to newspaper reports, failure to maintain adequate veterinary care (federal inspectors claim there is only one vet employed to treat all the animals), failure to consider alternatives to procedures involving animal pain and distress, failure to handle animals in a manner that avoids stress, and failure to avoid and minimize pain and distress during procedures. Cited incidents at Santa Cruz Biotechnology include goats suffering from lameness, broken limbs, acute injuries, and respiratory, urinary or neurologic illnesses—all not given proper treatment or veterinary care.

Pressure on SCB is now, it is rumored, being brought by some of its clients, such as labs at Stanford University, who may stop buying its products until it cleans up its act.

John and Brenda Stephenson, SCB’s owners, still use their 206-acre ranch above Hwy. 1 for farming and cattle ranching.

Your New RBDA Board

At the Jan. 16 Annual RBDA meeting 5 people were elected to the RBDA Executive Board. Re-elected to 2-year terms were Jacob Pollock, Tom Hearn and Marty Demare. New to the Board is Bonny Doon native Meggin Harmon, who has previously served the community in a number of ways. Ted Benhari was elected to fill out the remaining 1-year term of Pat Morrison, who had to resign in 2012. The Board appointed him to the position last March.

After the election the Board elected its new officers. Jacob takes over as chairman, Meggin is the new vice chair, Tom moves to recording secretary, Lad Wallace is the new Membership Coordinator, Joe Christy is now treasurer, and Marty and Ted remain as corresponding secretary and Highlander Editor respectively.

Support the RBDA by renewing your membership now: all 1-year memberships expired on January 31st.

Ideas for RBDA Meeting Topics


We are always open to suggestions for interesting programs and speakers at our bimonthly (except July) RBDA public meetings.

What are you interested in? Local flora and fauna, gardening, environmental and political issues, Bonny Doon history or geology, public safety?

What were some of your favorite speakers or presentations at past RBDA meetings?
Were there any that you would like us to repeat?

Please email us with your ideas and comments at


California Oaks - photo by Ted Benhari

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The Highlander
The Rural Bonny Doon Association Newsletter
Box 551 • Felton, CA 95018

Bonny Doon's voice in preserving our special quality of life, 
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