Project description for the FSCR Summit Road/Highland Way Shaded Fuelbreak
revised: May 4, 2021
The project will create a shaded fuel break along 5.6 miles of Summit Road and Highland Way between Highway 17 and Mt. Bache Road. This ridgetop road system is a primary evacuation route in Santa Cruz County and thus ranks very high in priority for this type of work by CAL FIRE and Santa Cruz County. The reduction of fuels along this prominent ridge will also improve the chances of stopping fires that burn out of the upper Los Gatos watershed. Fire history demonstrates numerous fires have originated in the Los Gatos and adjacent Uvas/Llagas watersheds and burned upslope toward the ridge on which this project is located. These fires include the Lexington, Croy, Summit and the two Loma incidents.
This project will create a shaded fuel break by removing small trees, underbrush, and low hanging limbs on trees within 100 feet of Summit Road/Highland Way. Large (over 8 inches in diameter), healthy trees will be retained; dead/dying trees will be removed. Also removed will be trees leaning over the roadway that are at increased susceptibility to falling over the road during wildfires as well as dead trees that have fallen onto the ground. Where large, healthy trees are not present or there are large gaps in the tree canopies, small trees and/or shrubs will be retained, spaced about 15 to 20 feet apart. Most of the cut material will be chipped and broadcast back onsite; material too large for chipping will be hauled off-site. By removing this vegetation, a future wildfire will burn with less intensity, at a slower rate of spread, and with a decreased potential for fire to climb into treetops – making fire suppression easier and evacuation during a wildfire safer. Portions of this 100-foot zone along the roadside will not receive any work where the project interfaces with the maintained yards of residents. This generally occurs within the 100 foot “Defensible Space” residents have the legal responsibility to create around their residence.
Scope of work specifications:
In order to decrease fire intensity and spread during wildfires, fuels in the project area will be modified within 100 feet of Summit Road and Highland Way utilizing a combination of mastication and handwork.
**In general, shrubs and trees less than 8 inches in diameter will be removed;
**Remove downed logs;
**Remove dead/dying trees;
**Remove trees with significant injury and/or decay at their base along the roadway;
**Remove trees leaning over the roadway that are at increased susceptibility to falling over the road during wildfires;
**Remaining trees will be pruned to a height of 10 feet above ground level
Summit Road-Highland Way Corridor Project
The Fire Safe County Roads (FSCR) project involves 138 property owners whose parcels have frontage on Summit Road & Highland Way, from Highway 17 to the Mt. Bache junction (as shown on the map above). The goal of the program is to create a shaded fuel break along this corridor to provide escape routes in case of a fire or other natural disaster, as well as providing access for emergency vehicles. Grants are available to cover the cost of this work, providing a high percentage of property owners agree to work with CAL FIRE and other agencies to reduce the fuel load adjacent to the road. The Santa Cruz Mountain Alliance and other volunteers are working with the 138 property owners to gather support for this critical program. Details of the FSCR project can be found in the Progress Reports.
Updates on Funding and on the Timeline
The COVID 19 virus has disrupted federal and state funding for fire protection grants. The FSCR project expected the grant application deadline for this project to be in the fall of 2020, with work to begin in 2021. Now, all funding is on hold. However we are told that there is a chance that funding could become available relatively soon and with little notice. With this in mind, FSCR and our partners continue to work on all aspects of the preparation process so that we are ready when funding does become available. However, to be clear, there is no information on when or how much funding will be authorized for fuel reduction work in 2021.
Scope of Work
The level of funding will determine the scope of work, that is, how much fuel reduction work occurs on each property and whether the entire length of the proposed project can be included with the initial funding. Ideally, the work will include basic clearing for a shaded fuel break such as removing brush and thinning dense stands of trees, as well as removing hazard trees and low-hanging tree canopies over the county road.
The scope of work document when completed is the basis of the agreement and permission slip which landowners are being asked to sign. The project goal is to obtain funding for all of this work as soon as possible.
Links to information on Home Hardening, on Defensible Space and Organizing your Neighborhood into a FireWise Council
The County Road Resource was developed in 2017 to answer the question presented to our community, How do we prioritize the repair of our county roads? It shows the number of households and their locations on all of the county roads in the First district of Santa Cruz County. All traffic flows are to Summit Road or to San Jose- Soquel Road where the repairs are funded by a different process.
Click here to read the Summit Ridge Community Roads
The Soquel Demonstration State Forest Resource is an exploration of a special forest in our community. The report explores critical aspects of forest management as well as the ongoing work taking place.
Click here to read the Soquel Demonstration State Forest Report