Ed Note: This is a reflection from Mark Keppler’s inside look at the Midtown Trail project
I took a long stroll on Wednesday.
I parked my old pickup next to Sears at Manchester Center and headed to the irrigation canal (named the Herndon Canal at this point, if I’m not mistaken) on the southeast corner of Blackstone and Shields avenues.
Then I walked to Shields and Fresno Street, where (I assume) the Midtown Trail will start. It’s here that there’s plenty of room along the canal bank for walkers, joggers, wheelchairs, bicycles, etc.
I didn’t have the energy to walk all the way to the Clovis Avenue/Dakota Avenue area where the Midtown Trail will connect to the Clovis Old Town Trail. I made it as far as McKinley Avenue/Chestnut Avenue.
About two miles of this stretch are currently posted as private property – Fresno Irrigation District property, I suppose. I always obey the law. Fortunately, Mark, I am blessed with great eyesight and a booming voice. They enabled me from an appropriate vantage point to see many details along this stretch and to ask questions of folks “doing their thing” on the canal bank.
Six quick points:
1.) Based on Monday’s news conference, the Midtown Trail will become a reality thanks to what elected/appointed officials describe as benign “creativity.” I’m an old school reporter, Mark. Such a description of public policy-making will always get my attention.
It’s not that I think officials involved with the Midtown Trail did something wrong. But I’ve learned over the decades that most public policy is made after the weighing of conflicting interests. That means the final policy consists of restraints as well as opportunities. A certain philosopher from the late 19th/early 20th century neatly summed up this perennial conflict in two words: “Who? Whom?”
My assumption is that the creative tinkering with Measure C policies that makes the Midtown Trail possible is resulting in the weakening/elimination of policy restraints that were supported by other partners to Measure C. If this isn’t the case, why were those policies there in the first place?
2.) Manchester Center is in Central Fresno. When you get to McKinley Avenue at, say, Cedar Avenue, you’re well on your way to South Fresno. Your point is well taken: How can a trail along this route be pitched as a taxpayer-funded benefit for North Fresno? (This “North Fresno gets everything” complaint is standard operating procedure among some City Hall critics, as you know.)
Your word – connectivity – led me to say that “for now” the Midtown Trail “looks north, not south.” The Midtown Trail for the near future won’t tie into a trail system south of McKinley because that system doesn’t exist. The Midtown Trail will tie into a vast Clovis/North Fresno trail system.
As City Manager Bruce Rudd says, it’s all about priorities. At this point in the evolution of the Fresno-Clovis metropolitan trail system, perhaps it makes the most sense to spend scarce dollars on building a trail along an obvious right of way – a series of big irrigation canals – that connects to a series of trails in a part of the region that already enjoys many recreational options. Connectivity is the highest value at this time. Trail expansion to the south will become the highest value at a different time.
I get it. Realpolitik is more productive than utopianism.
Yet, maybe a case could be made that wisest strategy is to immediately push the construction of trails into the southern (underserved) parts of Fresno – recreational salients, if you will – and view overall connectivity as a mop-up action.
I’m just asking. Too bad there wasn’t time to creatively touch on this at Monday’s news conference.
3.) There were five fishermen trying their luck at a spot near the old Valley Children’s Hospital site at Millbrook/Shields. This is where a small canal branches off from the big canal.
A young fella, maybe 14 or 15 years old, said bass, bluegill and carp are biting. He said he recently caught a three-and-a-half-pound bass in the big canal.
4.) Everyone in that area on Wednesday had their eyes open for two full-grown Rottweilers. The two dogs apparently live at a house with a backyard next to the canal. The fishermen said there’s a hole in the back fence.
No one wanted to test the dogs’ friendliness.
I later saw the dogs on the sidewalk along Millbrook. They appeared to be hunting for snacks.
5.) There’s a lot of illegal dumping on both sides of the canal from Fresno/Shields to Millbrook/McKinley. If I’m not mistaken, much of this stretch is in the county. I sure hope county code enforcement officers – or perhaps the Midtown Trail’s own corps of code officers – are aggressive and well-funded.
6.) All of this, Mark, is my way of suggesting that the “creative” tinkering of policy-makers for the Midtown Trail is just beginning.
I hope they succeed. Everyone will be watching.
Again, Mark, thank you for writing.