Santa Cruz GreenWharf Project

One of the city’s major landmarks and attractions for residents and tourists alike, the Santa Cruz wharf holds the distinction for the longest timber pile wooden wharf on the United States coastline. Built in 1914, the wharf’s wooden frame is supported by 4,528 wood pilings and extends one half mile into the ocean from the shoreline. The century-old wharf is now ecologically and environmentally sound thanks to the GreenWharf project that began in 2011.

Because of its location in the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary, the Santa Cruz wharf has the unique opportunity to serve as the headquarters for a number of energy and climate-related endeavors. As such, initial discussions about making the Santa Cruz wharf energy and environmentally efficient began in 2008.

Three years later, the City of Santa Cruz and the University of California at Santa Cruz collaborated to initiate the GreenWharf project to promote the progress and integration of cutting edge technology in both the wharf’s structure and its operations. The GreenWharf “refers to the suite of collaboratively implemented, interrelated projects that together minimize the footprint of Wharf operations on its surrounding environment while enhancing its appeal as a visitor destination.”

Over the past few years, the GreenWharf partnerships have grown to include local wharf businesses, UCSC students, nonprofit organizations, and numerous people and companies from the private sector.

The project has received over $150,000 to date in grant funds to implement a variety of projects including:

  • A renewable energy test bed with solar and the first wind turbine to be permitted by the Coastal Commission off the coast of California. The test bed charges the Wharf Electric Maintenance Vehicle’s batteries and reduces liquid fuel costs.
  • A free EcoTour mobile phone app and live docent-led tours on weekends highlighting the Wharf’s environmental protection efforts, ongoing research and certified green businesses.
  • A complete street and pedestrian lighting retrofit to LED technology, which reduces electricity and maintenance costs.
  • Installation of the first electric vehicle charging station on the Wharf.
  • Installation of cigarette butt and discarded fishing line receptacles for wildlife protection.
  • Green certification of seven Wharf businesses and Wharf Headquarters through the “Green Business Challenge.”
  • Wharf Centennial paper shopping bag campaign produced in collaboration with Wharf businesses to eliminate the use of plastic bags on the Wharf.
  • Academic research on marine wildlife, energy and trash handling.
  • Educational events, internships, field trips, and press conferences to highlight the success of the GreenWharf efforts and encourage public participation.

Future projects include:

  • New wind technology
  • Tidal energy
  • Waste to energy systems
  • Increased biking and walking access
  • Stormwater pollution reduction system
  • Increased interpretive signage

In 2014, the GreenWharf project received the Governor’s Environmental & Economic Leadership Award (GEELA), California’s most esteemed environmental award. The program recognizes exceptional leadership and contributions to conserving the state’s resources and protecting and enhancing its environment. In 2016, GreenWharf also received Turning Red Tape Into Red Carpet’s Sustainable Green Development award in the small city category.

As the Santa Cruz wharf enters into its second century, it has moved beyond just its recreational and entertainment aspect. It now is helping to sustain, protect and enhance the surrounding ecosystem, gather data for various environmental studies and serve as a beacon of ecology for the city, its residents and businesses.