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ACLU Santa Cruz County Renews Its Objection to Cowell Beach Curfew
by ACLU Santa Cruz County
Saturday Aug 2nd, 2014 12:23 PM
Public Fora Must Remain Public
In its General Session of July 22, 2014, the Santa Cruz City Council considered a Resolution to continue the previously imposed curfew on Cowell Beach. ACLU Santa Cruz County reiterates its objection to this restriction of public access and urges the Council to reconsider the issue in the full light of relevant facts.

ACLU of Santa Cruz County
123 Liberty Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
santacruzaclu [at]

To: Santa Cruz City Council

Re: Cowell Beach/Municipal Wharf Public Access

The rights that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) seeks to protect include the right to access and use open and public spaces. In Santa Cruz, we are fortunate to have many such spaces; our city beaches are one example of historically and legally recognized public space. By completely prohibiting the use of Cowell Beach during certain hours, the Resolution being considered by this Honorable Council raises serious issues of the abridgement of substantial civil liberties. We recognize, of course, that even Constitutional rights may be subject to reasonable restrictions. However, we do not believe that this standard is met in this instance.

As community members, we are aware of the anecdotal testimony that has been offered in support of the opinion that continued open access to Cowell Beach may adversely impact public safety. However, we have seen no data, statistics, or reliable evidence of any kind that would justify the abridgement of civil liberties that the proposed curfew would cause. In our view, the potential harm implicit in this Resolution far outweighs any perceived benefit to the community at large.

We are mindful of the delicate balance that exists in our society between the preservation of civil liberties and the desire of our citizens for a safe and secure community. But the curfew proposed by this council asks too much of individual liberty and offers too little in the way of potential public safety, particularly in light of the absence of credible evidence regarding the nature and extent of the public safety problems.

Therefore, on behalf of the Board of Directors of the Santa Cruz Chapter of the ACLU of Northern California, we respectfully request that this Council withdraw the Resolution currently being considered, at least until the Council has obtained broad, reliable, statistical evidence of the scope and nature of the public safety issues. As you know, if the Council does impose the contemplated curfew, any court considering the Council's action will require this kind of evidence to be able to engage in the necessary Constitutional balancing of interests.


Santa Cruz Chapter of the ACLU of Northern California

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Indyradio
Saturday Aug 2nd, 2014 10:48 PM
The stupid shit that is allowed to defile the names of the dead. Henry Cowell would be amazed that a "curfew" was considered. Is this wartime, or what's going on anyway?
by The Real Henry Cowell
Sunday Aug 3rd, 2014 12:27 AM
Same name, but different people.

Who was Henry Cowell?

In the early 1900's Cowell operated lime kilns at four locations in Santa Cruz County. There was a lime works on Adams Creek (now part of Wilder Ranch State Park), on Fall Creek (now part of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park), and in Santa Cruz (at what is now the entrance to University of California).


Henry Cowell

Henry Cowell (March 11, 1897 – December 10, 1965) was an American composer, music theorist, pianist, teacher, publisher, and impresario.

Cowell, who did not consider himself to be homosexual, was arrested and convicted in 1936 on a "morals" charge involving a 17-year old male. Sentenced to a decade-and-a-half incarceration, he would spend the next four years in San Quentin State Prison. There he taught fellow inmates, directed the prison band, and continued to write music at his customary prolific pace, producing around sixty compositions, including two major pieces for percussion ensemble: the Oriental-toned Pulse (1939) and the memorably sepulchral Return (1939).
by Hal Chase
Monday Aug 4th, 2014 2:20 PM
Defile the names of the dead? In Henry Cowell's lifetime, the beach was private property that his company controlled. It wasn't public until his son Samuel "Harry" Cowell transferred the property to the City of Santa Cruz in 1954. Henry Cowell would be amazed that anybody would demand to come and go whenever they want on his privately held land, and would have you or I removed from it at his request. Ol' Henry died in 1903 after being shot earlier that year in a property boundary dispute; he took these things rather seriously.
by Harry Cowell
Monday Aug 4th, 2014 2:58 PM
According to Harry, the Cowell land was never supposed to be privatized, but various contemporary events have lead to that happening, including the sale of the land near Graham Hill Road to build mini mansions, and the current curfews inflicted on the public parks.

About Harry:

"The youngest son, Harry (1860 - 1955) was the last link in the Cowell family line. In his will he saw to it that 21 faithful employees were provided for, then gave the rest of the money for the public good; the giving was to be governed by the Cowell Foundation. The Santa Cruz Sentinel estimated the dollar amount to be over $14 million. Some Santa Cruz locations that benefited from the Cowell Estate include the University of California at Santa Cruz (the former Cowell Ranch), Cowell Beach, First Congregational Church on High Street and a large addition to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. Other recipients of substantial gifts were Mills College, Stanford University, and Academy of Sciences in San Francisco."

Who was Henry Cowell?