May/June 2014 issue

Snakes: the Good, the Dangerous and the Beautiful
Dave Allen
Herpetologist, proprietor of Got Snakes?

County Supervisor Candidates
Bob Lamonica, Ryan Coonerty

Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 7:30 p.m.
Bonny Doon School Multipurpose Room
Pine Flat Road & Ice Cream Grade

For Goodness Snakes

As a species we seem to have a special place in our psyche for snakes. There are about a dozen species that share the Bonny Doon landscape with us. They mostly eat rodents and pose no threat to us humans, except for one, the Northern Pacific rattlesnake, which can, as we all know, do some damage if it feels threatened and cornered.

Some of the region’s most common snake species include the California king snake, the Pacific gopher snake, the rubber boa, and the common garter snake. They fulfill an important role within the local ecosystem.

At the May 14 RBDA meeting Dave Allen, who runs Got Snakes?, a humane snake removal service, will bring some of his favorites for people to meet up close. Dave says he may also bring a rattlesnake, which will be caged and unavailable for cuddling. He will also discuss rattlesnake behavior, how to avoid getting bitten by a rattler, and what to do and not to do if you are.

Dave is a skilled naturalist and has always had a strong interest in herpetology, the study of reptiles and amphibians. He says his childhood passion for snakes led him into a career in wildlife conservation and public education. He has worked with black mambas and crocodiles in South Africa, tracked chimpanzees in Uganda’s dense forests, and spent countless hours studying snakes and other wildlife here in the US.

Dave's presentation will cover some of the region’s more common snake species and snake-related property management. We can assure you that as much as he loves snakes, he doesn’t speak with a forked tongue, and we guarantee that this will be a fascinating evening.

If you ever wanted to know what a snake feels like or need help identifying our local snakes, we encourage you to join us. But if you can’t, at least visit Dave’s informative website,

Meet the Candidates for Supervisor

While some people may have the same feelings about politicians that they do about snakes, we assure you that it is purely coincidental that we have invited the two candidates vying to succeed Supervisor Neal Coonerty to introduce themselves at the May 14 RBDA meeting.

In the June 3 election, Bob Lamonica, 63, a businessman, is running against Neal’s son Ryan Coonerty, 39, an entrepreneur, author, educator and a two-time mayor of Santa Cruz.

This will also be your chance to tell the candidates what you are concerned about, which undoubtedly includes inadequate law enforcement, road maintenance and fire protection.

Bob describes himself as an opponent of what he calls “the progressive establishment—which he says includes Coonerty and, generally, the Democratic party, which conducts government with such a degree of double standard that it constitutes an ‘abuse of power.’”

In 1990 he lost a race for the East Palo Alto City Council, and worked in the 1990’s to legalize medical marijuana. He says he “would like to bring ‘honest’ discussions to the table about homelessness, poverty, and taxation of the wealthy” and that “one of the best parts about local government is that it’s mostly just problem solving—the trash has to get picked up, there needs to be water available, the police and fire departments have to respond. So I see my job as a problem-solving one.”

Bob’s contact info is or 831-466-0500.

Ryan describes his political accomplishments as the “historic agreement with UC Santa Cruz that reduced their housing, water and traffic impacts on the community, investing the City’s reserve funds locally to spur the local economy, and authoring the Clean Oceans, Rivers and Beaches initiative,” and playing “a key role in attract- ing the Santa Cruz Warriors, creating the Downtown Improvement Task Force, and supporting local businesses in creating good jobs.”

Ryan says that “Santa Cruz County is one of the most beautiful and innovative places in the world. We need to utilize these strengths to find smart solutions to our challenges.

“Santa Cruz County is facing both tremendous opportunities and challenges. We have a chance to enact policies that will make our streets and neighborhoods safer, preserve our amazing parks and open space, and create good jobs.”
Ryan’s contact info is or (831) 216-6523.

Coast Dairies at Last
the People’s Park

On April 14, 16 years after the Trust for Public Land (TPL) assumed responsibility for the gorgeous nearly 6,000 acres known as Coast Dairies, it finally became public property when TPL transferred the deed to the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

TPL was given Coast Dairies in 1998 by the Save the Redwoods League, which had purchased it with donations by the Packard Foundation, the California Coastal Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, other locally funded Santa Cruz Land Trust donations and some State funds.

The property now owned by BLM stretches from Laguna Canyon to Davenport and from Highway One to about a mile from Smith Grade. (The 400 acres of Coast Dairies seaward from Highway One was transferred to State Parks and opened to public use in 2006.) Almost 800 acres of agricultural parcels remain in TPL’s possession.

“Hiking trails and parking will be available to the public later this year,” says Rick Cooper, BLM Hollister Field Manager. “We are also working with local communities and the public to develop a long-term plan that will identify recreational opportunities and other public uses.”

Although we have long wanted to see it open to the public, the RBDA, along with other conservation groups and individuals, were concerned about how well the land would be protected from negative environmental impacts under BLM’s management, especially considering that the BLM is controlled by whichever party is in power in Washington. Along with Save Our Agricultural Lands (SOAL) and some others, we tried to point out to TPL that the language in the original deed restrictions regarding the permitted uses on the property needed to be strengthened to eliminate various loopholes, such as the use of recreational off-road vehicles and fracking.

TPL ignored our requests and we felt compelled to join in a lawsuit to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that there will be no future negative environmental impacts under BLM’s ownership and management and the ownership of whoever ultimately acquires the agricultural parcels. The best mechanism for that, we felt, was through TPL getting a Coastal Development Permit. Our opinion was that such a permit was required under the circumstances, and the California Coastal Commission agreed. TPL finally agreed to apply for one, and the resulting permit put in place many if not all of the things we were concerned about.

The permit bars the use of recreational off-road vehicles, precludes extraction of natural gas or petroleum, and reinforces prohibitions on commercial timber harvesting and mining. The permit also strengthens protection of agricultural lands by precluding nonagricultural commercial or industrial uses or further subdivisions; promotes sustainable grazing; provides that organic agriculture shall be given preference; and ensures that pesticides shall not be used within 275 feet of existing schools and homes in Davenport.

Along with our partners in the lawsuit, the law firm Wittwer/Parkin, and so many people in Santa Cruz who love and treasure our North Coast, we are grateful that the efforts over decades to protect the North Coast are moving ahead, and we look forward to working with BLM to assure that all the protections on the Coast Dairies property are honored in the future.

We have long awaited Coast Dairies opening to the public. Contrary to Santa Cruz Sentinel stories that repeated TPL’s contention that our suit’s purpose was to keep the public from using Coast Dairies, our suit did not prevent or delay the transfer to BLM ownership. We contend that TPL could have transferred the property to BLM years ago. Our concern was solely that the protections from abuse of the land be as ironclad as legally possible. We are excited and pleased that soon everyone will have the opportunity to explore and enjoy this incomparable property.

TPL Motion for Attorney Fees Rejected

In March, asserting that it had won the lawsuit, TPL sued the RBDA and SOAL (Save Our Agricultural Land) to recoup its claimed attorney costs, some $208,000, resulting from defending the suit. But on April 19 Superior Court Judge Rebecca Connolly denied TPL’s motion.

“The record supports that Petitioners’ [i.e, the RBDA, SOAL, et al] actions was not brought to prevent the transfer of the Coast Dairies property to the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”); rather, it was brought to assure compliance with the approval processes under the Coastal and Subdivision Map Acts prior to such a land transfer, in order to obtain protective conditions on that transfer which would better serve and benefit the public,” reads the Proposed Order Denying Motion for Attorney’s Fees.

The Order goes on to state that [emphasis added] “there is a concern that an award of attorneys’ fees in this case could have a chilling effect on other environmental actions brought to require both public and private interest projects to comply with acts and ordinances, such as the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”), in order to assure that all appropriate environmental concerns are addressed.”

Meanwhile, we and our co-petitioners have appealed a Superior Court ruling rejecting our contention that TPL’s redrawing of the property boundaries on some of the agricultural parcels constitutes a subdivision under the State Subdivision Map Act. Unless there is a settlement, that part of the suit will be considered by the State Court of Appeal probably sometime this summer.

CEMEX Redwoods Access update

At the end of March, more than 300 people filled the ballroom at the Hotel Paradox in Santa Cruz for a community meeting on access to the CEMEX Redwoods Forest. As the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported, there is “intense interest” in what will be allowed on the largest private property in the county.

Everyone at the meeting was given a map that was the CEMEX Partners’ (the four conservation agencies that acquired the property) first draft of the opportunities and constraints on access. The map can be seen on the Land Trust of Santa Cruz’s website ( The map is conceptual, and is a draft only, as no decisions have yet been made.

The partners outlined the general idea of providing access running the length of the property from Empire Grade down to the Coast Dairies property, potentially providing a skyline to the sea trail. Large parts of the property will be closed to access to protect sensitive biological, water and wildlife areas, and to provide buffers for near neighbors. These off-limits areas would include those where mountain lions birth and raise their cubs, streams that support endangered Coho salmon and Steelhead trout, and hazardous areas, especially the San Vicente quarry.

What isn’t on the map, and is perhaps the most important part of planning for access, is a host of management issues identified by the online survey taken by more than 2,400 people. How to avoid and manage conflicts among trail users? Will camping and dogs be allowed? How to deal with the pressures access will put on already overburdened local volunteer fire and rescue departments? How will the rules be enforced? How will everything be paid for? How to address traffic safety, parking and neighborhood impact concerns at access points?

The CEMEX Partners are working to address these questions and will host another community meeting with a draft plan this fall. At the Land Trust website you can sign up for updates to be notified when the draft plan is released, and to find out when the fall community meeting will be held.

Following is a summary of results from the online survey taken by more than 2400 people. 

Who responded:
Percent of responses from Bonny Doon and Davenport: 12%
Percent of responses from outside Santa Cruz County: 46%
Top things respondents want to allow:
Hiking: 90%
Loop Trail: 90%
Ridgeline to Ocean Trail 90%
On-leash dogs: 65%
Horseback riding: 63%
Biking: 54%
Hike-in camping 51%
Top things respondents don’t want to allow
Off-leash dogs: 49%
Biking: 24%
Hike-in camping: 21%
Horseback riding: 17%
On-leash dogs: 14%
Top concerns of respondents
Illegal uses: 51%
Trail conflicts: 51%
Fire risks: 46%
Wildlife impacts: 37%
Parking: 28%
Water quality impacts: 22%

The RBDA Board: Volunteers Needed

The RBDA Executive Board has two vacancies that need filling in order to bring us up to full strength and help us carry out our mission more effectively.

This came about after the abrupt resignation of RBDA Board Chair Meggin Harmon for personal reasons. Meggin, who had been elected to the board in 2013 and was selected by the Board as chairwoman in January, told us in March that new work and family obligations will require her to be out of town a lot and occupy a lot more of her time. This is a big loss for the RBDA, because in her 14 months on the board Meggin threw herself thoroughly into her board activities and made significant contributions.

At our April 2 board meeting we elected Tom Hearn as our new chairman. Membership Coordinator Lad Wallace will temporarily also take on Tom's former duties as Treasurer. Marty Demare was already wearing two hats, as Corresponding Secretary and acting Recording Secretary due to the February resignation of Joe Christy, who found that his invaluable work on the Bonny Doon Fire Safe Council was demanding more and more of his time. In April the Board appointed Jeff Alford, who is serving as Vice Chair.

Call or email us if you can help us continue to serve Bonny Doon.

Join the Conservation

Our fledgling RBDA members’ Facebook page is up and running, but to make it truly useful we need more of our members to sign up. Of course you need a Facebook account and some people have an understandable aversion to that. But remember that all you need is an account, you don’t have to post any personal info other than your name, and even that can be tweaked a bit (but if you do that you need to email us with your real name at so we can confirm your current RBDA membership.

We are hoping that the site becomes a place where we can share important current news regarding our mutual concerns: local environmental issues; proposed development that could have significant negative impacts on Bonny Doon; needed improvements in public services such as law enforcement and road maintenance.

Perhaps most importantly, the Facebook page gives members an instantaneous way to converse with the RBDA Board and each other. To join, search for RBDA or Rural Bonny Doon Association on Facebook and ask to be admitted to the group.

Thank You for Your Generosity

The RBDA is able to continue its various efforts and provide the educational services that you have come to expect due in large part to the generosity of certain of its members, who have donated much more than the base membership dues.  Such generosity allows us to maintain the low membership dues we currently ask of all members. Without naming those who have provided the RBDA with the additional financial help that we rely on, we wish to thank and acknowledge them.

The primary use of money generated by both donations and dues is to cover the costs of printing and mailing The Highlander, as well as the cost of insurance for our use of the Bonny Doon School Multi-purpose room for our meetings.

There are occasional costs that we also incur associated with legal activities in which we are involved, not the least of which is our ongoing efforts to assure a good outcome to the Coast Dairies property saga. Although we barely scratch the surface of the legal costs associated with this project, we have done what we can to help defray some of our attorneys’ costs associated with their important work.

Regardless of the level of financial support members are able to provide, we need you to know that your membership is very important to us.  If you have not already renewed your membership for this year, we encourage you to do so by printing the form on the web site and mailing with your check to RBDA, P.O. Box 551, Felton, CA 95018.

Support the RBDA by renewing your membership now: all 1-year memberships expire 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


A late February 2014 storm batters Panther Beach, just south of Bonny Doon beach—photo by Paul Babb 

Support Our Sponsors

Frans Lanting Gallery
Wildlife & Nature Photography
500 Chestnut St., Suite 200 Santa Cruz

The Flower Ladies
Flower Arrangements for Weddings & Special Occasions

Northcoast Berry Farms
340 Woodpecker Ridge Bonny Doon CA 95060 831-426-3733

McHenry Vineyard
Estate Pinot Noir
Bonny Doon CA 95060   530-756-3202

Become One of Our Sponsors
Sponsorships: $100 a year
Send check and text to:
P.O. Box 551, Felton CA 95018

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

Bonny Doon's voice in preserving our special quality of life, 
The Highlander is mailed free to Bonny Doon residents prior to the 
RBDA General Meetings, which are usually held on second Wednesdays of 
January, March, May, July, September and November.
We encourage you to participate. 

 Send mail correspondence to the Highlander Editor at the above address, 
or by email, below.

Contact the RBDA Board in one email

The Bonny Doon Planning District
Bonny Doon Planning
                    District map

If you live in or own property within this district, roughly from Empire Grade to the ocean and from San Vicente Creek to the City of Santa Cruz border, you are eligible to be an RBDA member.

Please support the RBDA!

Dues payments count for a full year from date received.
Dues mostly go for printing and mailing The Highlander,
your voice for keeping Bonny Doon rural and natural.

Click here for details!

Those who make additional contributions qualify as:

CONTRIBUTORS ($ 25+ dues)
SUSTAINERS ($50+ dues), or
PATRONS ($ 100+ dues)

Back to the RBDA homepage
To the Highlander index