Dig Day Recaps: Cotoni-Coast Dairies and Emma McCrary/U-Con Trails

January 12, 2022
We recently hosted two Dig Days to build brand new trail and tune up some old favorites. Read on for a peek at what we accomplished.

Cotoni-Coast Dairies Dig Day, December 2021

At the very end of last year, we hosted the first-ever Dig Day at Cotoni-Coast Dairies! This was a magical event, and volunteers helped build brand-new singletrack at our local portion of the California Coastal National Monument. Big thanks to Mick’s Automotive and Santa Cruz Mountains Clothing for sponsoring the event, plus Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing and Upper Crust Pizza for the delicious post-dig snacks.

After meeting at Swanton Berry Farm in Davenport to get oriented, volunteers made their way up into the Cotoni-Coast Dairies property for a groundbreaking day (literally).

All fifty volunteers spent the day building brand-spankin’-new singletrack, right on the Santa Cruz County coast. Volunteers descended into Molino Creek Canyon and followed bright pin flags to begin creating fresh trail that will weave between the redwoods and deeper into the Cotoni-Coast Dairies property. The trickiest part of the day was cutting on the steep slopes to build a trail that seamlessly blends into the landscape. When building a new trail, we aim to have everything look like it’s been that way for decades. Any new construction shouldn’t detract from the natural landscape that surrounds it, which is a big challenge when it comes to breaking ground on an entire new network of trails.

Excavation is hard work, and when cutting new trail, our goal is to create a full bench cut in the hillside (see diagram below for an example). This means that the “critical edge” (outer edge of the new new trail) cannot contain loose sidecast of dirt mixed with leaves and duff.

To keep things fully benched, volunteers not only cut the new trail, but then dragged the looser dirt mixture downhill and out of the trail’s path. It was hard work! On the bright side, recent rain meant that the dirt was perfectly malleable and easily compacted throughout the entire day. Check out the below carousel for a few photos from the trail work. Photos by Christine La.

Trails Director Drew Perkins led Trail Academy 103: Hand-Building, at this Dig Day. In a small group of 10, he taught students how to approach hand-built trail development, and practiced core skills needed to craft high-quality trail from scratch.

Support trail development at Cotoni-Coast Dairies! We are currently fundraising for all 19 miles of Phase 1 trails for hikers, cyclists, and equestrian to enjoy. Help us keep the momentum high by making a contribution to support our work today.

Missed this Dig Day, but want to get out and work on these new trails with our team? Sign up for drop-in trail work at Cotoni-Coast Dairies! We welcome volunteers every Tuesday and Thursday. Check out more info and sign up here.

Emma McCrary and U-Con Trails, January 2022

Earlier this month, we gathered over 30 volunteers for a Dig Day to tune up U-Con and Emma McCrary Trails. These two trails are some of the most heavily used outdoor spaces in Santa Cruz, and we made some MAJOR improvements to keep these classic trails in great shape for years to come. Thank you to event sponsor and EMT trail adoptee Giro, and shoutout to Togo’s Capitola and Shanty Shack Brewing for the refreshments!

If you’ve never enjoyed Emma McCrary Trail (also known as “EMT”) or U-Con Trail (short for University Connector), trust us when we say that you should add them to your list of places to visit. EMT and U-Con connect the City of Santa Cruz to Pogonip Open Space and University of California, Santa Cruz, and are popular multi-use trails for hikers, cyclists, and equestrians. Both are extremely beloved trails in the Santa Cruz community, and were showing a bit of wear.

Our Dig Day volunteers focused on improving sightlines and drainage throughout the trails, and one group even installed a new drain pipe to eliminate a long-lasting puddle! They removed all existing mud from the trail, dug an enormous trench, and installed the new pipe. After the pipe was in the ground, they made sure that it wouldn’t fill up with sediment by using a clinometer to ensure an outward slope of 4%. Once placement was solidified, the crew used rocks to stabilize the pipe’s placement (a process called “stone pitching”) and built up a small berm above their install! Check out the carousel below for the full process.

Two other teams–one led by Trail Sage Tim Miller and Trail Crew Leader Paul Gyorey, and the other led by Trail Sage Scottie Junker and Trail Crew Leaders Victor Simileysky and Tom Eagleton–worked on rock armoring a latter section of Emma McCrary Trail and the bottom of U-Con with a technique called stone cropping. Volunteers removed muddy trail tread and installed a solid base of rocks below. These rocks will improve drainage on the trail, and prevent future erosion of the trail surface. To help keep EMT and other rock armored trails in good shape for years to come, remember to hike or ride over the rocks, not around them! Going around the rock armored section will lead to trail widening, erosion, and degradation.

Drew Perkins, our Trails Director, also taught Trail Academy 105: Intro to Trail Maintenance at this Dig Day. His group of 10 students worked on drain clearing and construction, and practiced identifying areas in need of brushing to improve sightlines.

At the end of the day, volunteers “renaturalized” their work, and showered all new drains and trail improvements with redwood duff. Renaturalizing may seem unnecessary, but it’s a very important step in the trail work process. Visitors come to the trails to enjoy the beauty of nature, and by renaturalizing our trail work, we make the trail look like it’s been that way for years. Next time you head out to U-Con or EMT, try to spot our trail work! It might be harder than you think.

We have many more Dig Days on the horizon! Check out our events calendar for all the latest sign-up links, and subscribe to our newsletter to hear about Dig Days first.


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