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Roaring Camp Calls on Community To Fight Back Against Plan to Abolish Historic Rail Line

Photo from Roaring Camps Instagram

Roaring Camp Calls on Community To Fight Back Against Plan to Abolish Historic Rail Line

By Movieguide® Staff

The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) recently announced a plan to abandon the historic Felton Branch Rail Line.

In many ways, the Roaring Camp-owned rail lines have acted as the economic backbone for the Santa Cruz community since F. Norman Clark opened Roaring Camp Inc. in 1963.

Roaring Camp, which has owned the Felton Branch Line since 1984, called on residents of Santa Cruz County and beyond to fight back against the RTC’s plan to abolish the rail line and “Save The Beach Train.

“Roaring Camp is strongly opposed to the RTC’s proposed action to pursue forced abandonment of the rail line we’ve owned and operated since 1984 because doing so will seriously harm our local, family-run, women-owned business, and our local economy,” Roaring Camp CEO and Norman’s daughter, Melani Clark said in a statement. “The RTC’s proposal represents an aggressive attack on our railroad and rail transportation in our county, fueled by special interests that are lobbying hard to end rail in Santa Cruz County. We encourage our community to join Roaring Camp in standing up against this poorly conceived, shortsighted move.”

Should the French Branch Rail Line cease to operate, freight operations would end, and local businesses in both South and North county would suffer, as well as threaten Roaring Camp’s tourist train service, Clark notes.

“Roaring Camp’s tourist train operations are also threatened by the RTC’s forced abandonment plans,” Clark explained. “Our tourist trains carry approximately 200,000 – 250,000 guests per year (pre-pandemic), with a very large portion of those guests staying in area hotels, contributing to the local economy and tax base. Our beach train operations that run from Felton to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk remove approximately 9,000 cars off the road during busy summer months.”

“Forced abandonment represents a serious overreach of local government and is a clear threat to our business including the more than 60 permanent employees who work for Roaring Camp, as well as many more seasonal employees,” she added. “But make no mistake, the RTC’s proposal goes well beyond impacting Roaring Camp; the proposal is clearly part of a larger scheme that will have permanent and deeply negative impacts for our entire county.”

Clark also claims that the RTC proposal is a “breach of trust and a betrayal of a commitment” to rail service.

“The RTC is targeting Roaring Camp’s Felton Branch Rail Line as the first step toward forced abandonment of the full Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line and a betrayal of a commitment made to future rail that was made to Roaring Camp, the people of Santa Cruz County and the State of California,” Clark writes, adding that the rail service is more than just a means of transportation, but a significant part of California’s history.

It is not only the residents of Santa Cruz County who want to preserve Roaring Camp and its railroads. Movieguide® founder Dr. Ted Baehr shared his connection to Roaring Camp and his desire to keep the historic, eight-mile-long rail line up and running.

“Having worked with my cousin Norman in the 1960s to help build Roaring Camp RR, I remember well [the] great need for this rail line to improve and prosper the Santa Cruz region,” Baehr wrote in a letter to RTC obtained by Movieguide®. “Today, I publish Movieguide® which reaches a carefully measured 43 million. We have had several articles on Roaring Camp, which has even reached my friend who produced the STAR WARS movies. I would like to continue to support the community, without the degradation of abolishing the rail line.”

“Removing rail service is a big mistake and limits Santa Cruz County’s transportation options. I urge you to protect Roaring Camp’s rights to the Felton Branch Line,” he continued. “Preserving the tracks for the future is the right thing to do for the County’s economy, businesses and tourism industry. Light rail is a smart solution to the County’s traffic problems and a huge win for the environment. Freight-by-rail is a less expensive greener option versus trucking.”

According to the Roaring Camp website, the RTC will hold the final vote on Feb. 3, 2022.

Visit Roaring Camp’s website to help protect and preserve one of Santa Cruz’s most beloved lines!