Bridging the Gap Between River and Community: The Pedestrian Bridge

The highway 1 pedestrian bridge connects the east and west banks of the San Lorenzo River at the northernmost point of the Santa Cruz Riverwalk. Photo courtesy and © of Mark Yashinsky.

The Highway 1 Pedestrian Bridge connects the east and west banks of the San Lorenzo River at the northernmost point of the Santa Cruz Riverwalk. Photo courtesy of and © Mark Yashinsky.

Does your town have a river? Trying to connect people with their river through public programs and planning involves collaboration between organizations, city officials, and the local community. Organizations like Riverfront Recapture and the Susquehanna Greenway have created programs to improve quality of life, river revitalization and celebration of river connection. In Santa Cruz, organizations like the Coastal Watershed Council have helped to create programs that connect people to the San Lorenzo River.

The Highway 1 Pedestrian Bridge is a tangible example of what a community can do to increase access and enjoyment of riverways. Before the Pedestrian Bridge was built it was difficult for pedestrians and bicyclists to cross the northern section of the urban river. It is illegal to take a bike on the Highway 1 overpass, so river-goers would have to travel down to Water Street to cross.

 The Highway 1 bridge travels over the San Lorenzo River. Here, it is illegal for pedestrians or bikes to cross the river. Photo courtesy and © of Coastal Watershed Council.

The Highway 1 bridge travels over the San Lorenzo River. On the highway, it is illegal for pedestrians or bikes to cross the river. Photo courtesy of and © Coastal Watershed Council.

These issues were addressed when the City of Santa Cruz and the local community came together and approved the the San Lorenzo Urban River Plan in 2003. The plan’s overarching goal was to restore native plants and to enhance fish and wildlife habitat in and along the river. They also hoped to create a space to enjoy the river’s natural beauty without compromising the needed levee structures. The pedestrian bridge and the Santa Cruz Riverwalk (the two-mile long City Park on the top of the levees) were created from this plan.

The new pedestrian bridge is lowered into place in 2009. Photo courtesy and © of Syblon Reid General Engineering Contractors.

The new Pedestrian Bridge is lowered into place in 2009. Photo courtesy of and © Syblon Reid General Engineering Contractors.

The construction of the public Pedestrian Bridge was a major success for the city. In addition, the project received the American Public Works Association Monterey Bay Chapter 2010 Project of the Year Award. The bridge is 270 feet long, and is a great place to pause and observe the river meandering upstream and commuters traveling downstream.

A major goal of the San Lorenzo Urban River Plan was to “create a unique sense of space, but not to compete with the river’s natural beauty or impede the functionality of the levees.” The project’s authors pushed for interpretive signs, educational material surrounding the river and increased public awareness regarding the San Lorenzo River. The report gathered information from walking tours, public meetings, and from the experiences of similar interpretive trail projects that have proven to be successful.

Read the rest of the story to see which alliance is making waves in the river’s future here at MobileRanger.com.

Take the Self-Guided Mobile Tour

This piece is part of a tour all about the lower San Lorenzo River by the Coastal Watershed Council. You can download the free app with many tours of the Santa Cruz area and beyond at www.mobileranger.com.

Like the Content? It’s by and © Mobile Ranger. Check out all our blogposts and our free mobile app with sixteen high quality self-guided mobile tours of the Santa Cruz area and beyond at www.mobileranger.com. Please like us on Facebook!


Julia Gaudinski


Leave a Comment