continued One person who was at the February 24 meeting with Stewart but does not remember him taking sides is Lew Wolfgang, vice president of the Pacific Southwest Railroad Museum and chair of its Coronado Branch committee. He acknowledges that Ed Kravitz may not have the most winning of ways, often sending confusing e-mails to anyone he thinks will help the railroad preservation cause. "He goes off on tangents, and he doesn't have good follow-through with paperwork, things like business plans," according to Wolfgang. "But Ed's heart is in the right place, and he has lots of good ideas." Wolfgang and Kravitz agree that a revival of old trains on the Coronado Branch line would increase San Diego's historical tourism, an industry that brings millions of dollars into communities all over the country. "Our museum would have passenger rights on the Coronado Branch. As landlord, the transit district would contract out the service to us the same way it contracts out to the trolley for its service," says Wolfgang.
Mitchell Beauchamp would like to see the Coronado Branch used for freight transport as well. Currently he is working with Union Pacific to move freight in and out of the South Bay on the Carrizo Gorge Railway from Plaster City in Imperial Valley. It doesn't make sense, he thinks, for San Diego to destroy the possibility of also shipping freight north and south on the Coronado Branch. All that railroad preservationists want is to share the Coronado Branch right-of-way. "This is an easy thing to solve," says Bruce Coons, director of Save Our Heritage Organisation. Along the railroad right-of-way, the berm that grounds the tracks would have to be widened to accommodate both trains and bicycles. New pilings supporting the old railroad's trestles would need to be sunk. Coons says donations have already put him in possession of the materials to fix the trestles. The only lasting environmental impact Mendel Stewart says would result from widening the berm is that it would create more shadows in the wildlife reserve. And Coons doesn't think that amounts to much of an impact.
"The bike trail is important, but it doesn't have to be one or the other," says Coons, who cannot understand why Supervisor Cox is being so stubborn about the issue. He also thinks that sooner or later Cox will have to quit avoiding the law. The California Environmental Quality Act requires that any discretionary public project, such as the Bayshore Bike Trail, must give an environmental impact report to show that it does not harm historic, commercial, or scenic resources. Cox has said he doesn't believe the Coronado Branch is historic. But Coons is sure he will eventually prevail in demonstrating that the railroad is a historic resource.
Coons notes, too, that the Pacific Railroad Act, signed in the 1860s by Abe Lincoln, would protect the right of railroad activity on the Coronado Branch from the restrictions of any environmental laws, which were passed later. If push came to shove, rights to operate on the rail's right-of-way could be "grandfathered" into the older railroad act, according to Coons. The San Diego City Council's decision to overturn the Coronado Branch's historic status was a "handshake between cities," according to Coons. "But the battle is about to move from the political to the legal arena," he says. I ask Coons if he can envision a time when trains will ever again run the entire length of the Coronado Branch. Thinking about the political opposition to the railroad so far, he says, "Probably not in our lifetime. Still, one can imagine a trolley sometime in the future that runs from downtown San Diego all the way to Coronado. It's important to keep our transportation options open," says Coons. "In Los Angeles they let developers get rid of a bunch of tracks, and now the city is paying the price."