Preservation is an act of compassion toward any historic or ecological significant piece of land. Eight miles from Santa Cruz, California, sits the Cotoni-Coast Dairies, is one such example of this. What was once federally-owned land named after the Indigenous Cotoni nation is now about to be open to the public. Why is this so significant? Because it also brings with it the newest national monument near Santa Crus, as well as 19 miles of coastal hiking trails.

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The monument, preserved by President Obama during his last week in office, had completed its approved public access plan in June of 2021. Now, it's slated to open in 2022, and will provide its hiking visitors with a whole new oceanside world to explore in Santa Cruz.

What We Know About Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monuments & Its Hiking Trails

The diverse ecosystem and terrain of the Santa Cruz oceanfront is one that's not known by many people. While Santa Cruz is known for its bustling seaside city tourism, the Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument is about to change everything visitors thought they knew about it. By introducing a landscape of rugged terrain filled with rolling hills, vast ocean views, and mountain ridgelines with plunging canyons, this protected land is everyone a California hiker could dream of.

In regard to the region's ecosystem, oak forests, coastal grasslands, and redwood woodlands will all be part of a hiker's journey. Additionally, views over the Monterey Bay and Pacific Coast, with plenty of wildlife-watching opportunities, are becoming a reality.

The History Of The Cotoni Lands

The land where the new national monument will be located was once inhabited by the Cotoni, who were the indigenous peoples of what is now known as the Santa Cruz region. They were part of the Ohlone Indians who inhabited the Monterey Bay and San Francisco regions of California. The Cotoni people lived in the area outside of Santa Cruz for thousands of years prior to European exploration, and it's here that four ancestral Native American archeological sites have been discovered and protected. The Santa Cruz Mountains, surrounding valleys, forests, and canyons all hold a cultural and sacred significance in regard to the Cotoni people, and for future generations, which is why protecting it is so crucial.

According to Sempervirens Fund, the purpose of preserving this land was with a "goal [that] was to prioritize the preservation of its incredible ecological, archeological, and cultural values. It was a unique opportunity for the public to experience this natural treasure in ways that are sustainable and responsible."

Related: Guide To Visiting South California's Anza-Borrego Park (And Hiking Its Best Trails)

Hiking & Recreation At Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument

It's the goal of the Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Stewardship to have the hiking trails around the new national monument be open to hikers by the end of 2022. However, this all depends on whether or not they're able to reach their fundraising goal, which helps pay for the development and work on each trail.

When the trails are eventually opened, visitors can expect more than a walk through the wilderness of Santa Cruz. Everything, from the flora and fauna of the trails to their cultural significance, will be part of the experience of visiting the Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument.

Protecting The Wildlife & Habitats In Santa Cruz

One major goal of this massive undertaking of land protection is to protect its wildlife and habitats. The Santa Cruz Mountains and waterfront are home to diverse ecosystems that maintain a balance along the coastline, as well as being a safe haven for many marine animals, such as the Coho salmon. Many parts of the protected land have been set aside in order to protect the wildlife that lives there, and early hunting proposals have been shut down.

Additionally, any proposals to spray pesticides have been denied, and there will be shaded fuel-breaks to help in the event of a wildfire. For this reason, there will not be any camping or campfires permitted on the Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument lands.

Hiking And 'Responsible' Recreation

The early plans for Santa Cruz's new hiking trails also include the decree of 'responsible' recreation. This means that while the land can be enjoyed by hikers and visitors to the national monument, it must also be enjoyed responsibly. Hikers, bikers, and horseback riding are required to stay on the approved, marked trails, and backcountry hiking will not be permitted.

Hikers are also welcome to bring their dogs as the trails will be pet-friendly, but they must be leashed and remain on trails at all times. The trail system itself will be created in sections, and part of it will connect the Bureau of Land Management's trails to the San Vincente Redwoods property.

Although the national monument still has some way to go before the trails are open to the public, it will surely become a unique feature of Santa Cruz that will be enjoyed and appreciated for generations.

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