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52 Places for a Changed World

Every year the New York Times publishes a list of destinations to highlight places for travelers to visit. This year, rather than featuring places with the hottest new restaurant or beach scene, they are featuring "52 Places for a Changed World." Due to over tourism and greenhouse gas emissions caused by tourism, NY Times is taking a different strategy. They say that their list:

Highlights places where change is actually happening — where endangered wild lands are being preserved, threatened species are being protected, historical wrongs are being acknowledged, fragile communities are being bolstered — and where travelers can be part of the change.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Santa Cruz County, California, the county in which I live, appears on the list. I have mixed feelings about this. While I believe I live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world, any destination on that list will tend to get many more visitors now that the secret is out. As it is, California gets lots of visitors. This article might shift the Monterey crowds north, or at least add Santa Cruz to the travel itinerary. So much for trying to prevent over tourism!

NY Times says that many places on the list are not yet open, so the list will be good into the future. One of the big Santa Cruz County attractions they list is Big Basin Redwoods. However, it is still closed (except for a small patch) due to wildfire destruction from the CZU Complex fire in 2020. The rebuilding that's taking place is extensive, and could run far longer than anticipated. The newest addition to public lands, Cotoni-Coast Dairies, is not yet open. The only attraction that's open and mentioned in the short write up is Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. A delightful gem, to be sure.

The article could have mentioned a few things that are open, like Natural Bridges State Beach, where one can appreciate the natural phenomenon of an arch. Or Año Neuve State Park, where tourists can join a docent-led walk to learn about elephant seals and see up to 10,000 of them on the beach. To help our local family run wineries, a shout out to the Santa Cruz Wine Growers would have been terrific. Getting to some of the wineries is half the fun as the roads wind through the mountains. Many wineries have spectacular views.

Let's hope that people influenced by the NY Time article do a little research and discover these other gems. I'd hate to see thousands of people showing up at Big Basin Redwoods to crowd into the small patch that is open or trying to sneak into Cotoni-Coast Dairies to get a selfie.

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