by Betsy Herbert
published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel 5/18/2012
What recreational activities would you like to see at the 335-acre Loch Lomond Recreation Area in the Santa Cruz Mountains? The City of Santa Cruz Water Department, which manages the area, is seeking public input at a Community Meeting on May 30. “We are seeking different viewpoints about recreation use at Loch Lomond from the whole community,” said Lydia Tolles, a water department management analyst.
The Recreation Area contains the 175-acre Loch Lomond Reservoir, a key component of the city’s water supply system, and the primary source of emergency water storage, serving to lessen impacts of dry spells and droughts. Accordingly, “There are constraints on the types of recreational use that can be considered,” said Tolles.
Loch Lomond Recreation Area was first opened for limited recreational use in 1963. According to Chris Berry, Watershed Compliance Manager for the City of Santa Cruz Water Department, fishing has always been a star attraction. From 2001 through 2008, the number of visitors to the area ranged from approximately 40,000 to 50,000. In 2008, the Department of Fish and Game issued an order to stop stocking trout in Loch Lomond and many other lakes across the state, to protect native salmonids and amphibians. With a reduced number of trout available for fishing, combined with a ban on outside boats, by 2011 the area received about half as many visitors.
This year, the Department of Fish and Game is stocking the reservoir with sterile trout, so that even if the fish were to escape over the dam, they could not interbreed with native steelhead trout. Berry expects that with the re-stocking, the number of visitors to the area will again pick up.
Fishing is not the only recreational attraction at Loch Lomond. Seven miles of existing trails are currently open to hiking and dog-walking (leash only) around the edge of the reservoir and in upland areas. Bicycles are permitted only on paved areas, but equestrian use is prohibited due to water quality issues.
City Water Department rangers are on site to oversee operation of a park store and a boat rental fleet, and to provide education, security, and first aid.
The Department of Public Health does not allow body contact with water in the reservoir, so swimming and stand-up paddling are not appropriate activities, according to Tolles.
Other constraints on recreation are also needed to protect the water supply. Restrictions on boating remain in place to prevent transport into the reservoir of invasive quagga and zebra mussels. Private boats used at the reservoir must be stored on site. Otherwise, rental boats are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Berry emphasized that additional recreational activities should not increase the risk of catastrophic fire. “We’re open-minded about recreational opportunities, but we’re trying to balance that with the city’s primary goal of protecting the water supply,” he said.
Previously, the City held a public meeting at the Zayante Fire Station in Felton on April 21 and circulated an on-line survey.
The City has contracted with BluePoint Planning LLC to conduct the recreation study and to recommend appropriate activities for the Recreation Area, considering water quality and other constraints. The study will weigh community input with water department goals and policies affecting the operation of the reservoir and Recreation Area.
The next Community Meeting seeking public input on recreation for the Loch Lomond Recreational Area will be May 30, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. at the Santa Cruz Police Department Community Room, 155 Center Street, Santa Cruz.