State Parks Funding

Henry W. Coe State Park, Santa Clara County

For many California state parks, the message is clear: The rail lines are coming.

Just six years ago, though, wilderness lovers stared down the railroad and won.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority proposed running tracks through Henry W. Coe State Park, an 89,042-acre expanse of oak woodland southeast of San Jose.

Critics said the plan would have marred Northern California's largest state park, which has 23,300 acres of designated wilderness and spills into Stanislaus County. They worried about noise and barriers to wildlife migration.

Planners suggested a tunnel, but critics said it could interfere with aquifers in this semi-arid place and be too costly.

"No part of Henry W. Coe State Park should be violated by a train, at grade or contained in a tunnel," the Sierra Club wrote.

The California Department of Parks and Recreation also opposed the route.

A San Francisco-based group, Defense of Place, worked with park activists on a detailed critique of the proposal's environmental study, the group's executive director, Nancy Graalman, said this month.

In fall 2004, the rail authority dropped the Coe option from its plans, preferring a route near Highway 152 and San Luis Reservoir to the south.

"There have been a lot of successes," Graalman said, "but Henry Coe was definitely the largest."

– John Holland