Salinas Valley: Mobilities and Invisibilization

My time at the Juan Bautista de Anza trail is wrapping up! As I reflect on this penultimate blog, I am so grateful for the opportunity to have partaken in a trail planning context and environment that has pushed me, challenged me, and allowed me to assign meaning to movement. I’d like to highlight a few events from these past few weeks!

EFTA organized a multi-site visit for all of the interns in California! I had the opportunity to meet and network with other interns supported by EFTA who also work in diverse programs at diverse sites. I met interns working law enforcement roles for the U.S. Forest Service, wildlife biologists at park sites in Northern California, and other planning and administrative interns throughout the West Coast. 

Originally, we were going to be meeting at Yosemite. However, given the recent Yosemite fires, we were rerouted to Monterey, California. We toured through several popular state parks in the region. It was such a valuable experience to connect with other folks with similar personal and professional interests. Building a constellation of shared experiences was a wonderful and valuable community practice. I am excited to continue these connections at our conference in DC and beyond!

During our trip, we were driving along the Anza trail. However, the Anza trail was not one of our official stops along the itinerary. We were going through infrastructure that, for all intents and purposes, was invisible. The challenge of working at a place like the Anza trail is precisely that – even to a group of parkies, Anza infrastructure remains non-representational.

Salinas Valley, as captured from our car (en route to the areas of Monterey county tourists are encouraged to go)

My supervisor, Scott, is planning on expanding a significant amount of the existing trail networks in Monterey county through his urban design studio. Leading up to many of the tourist hotspots we visited in Monterey lies the Salinas Valley–a region that is primarily agricultural and largely Latinx. As one might imagine, this area is underserved and is often treated as ahistorical or acultural. Creating what might be analogous to a cooperative tourist parkway means building a transportation palimpsest that stories a place that finds itself without story. Visiting and driving through a mobility network in Salinas was an orienting experience–I saw myself passing through a territory that challenged typical conceptualizations of rurality. Salinas is rural, but it is also connected to networks of global capital and marketplaces in clear ways, marked through distribution and logistical infrastructure and tourist markets. It lies beyond a very visible “lettuce curtain” whereby miles of tourist development and well-maintained natural beauty give way to agricultural fields representing disinvestment and social strife. Park rangers at sites in Monterey explained to me that there was a need to engage with Salinas residents–most visitors at their sites were from Monterey. Salinas remains an area in need of the type of transformations a trail might provide. By traversing through the area, I hodologically experienced the landscapes and am ablaze with ideas for new, storied infrastructures.

I began working on a mapping project in Salinas. Though this project will not be completed during my own internship, I built the shell of a project that future Anza trail interns or staff can complete, building the digital infrastructure for a Story Map similar to my work in the San Gabriel Valley and the Gila River area.

Working on this new area has made me proud. I have learned so much about landscape and mapping through this internship, and I am applying these skills in a new context. Considering my new perspective on Salinas, this valley is the perfect arena.

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