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After Measure P (Parks Tax) Walking/Biking Trails Are Still Needed

Fresno City Hall

After Measure P (Parks Tax) Walking/Biking Trails Are Still Needed

Measure P failed, but the walkability of Fresno needs improvement, and the Planning Commission may start with an access point to the San Joaquin River bottom in North Fresno.

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The Planning Commission reviewed the construction plans for an access point to the San Joaquin River bottom in North Fresno on Wednesday.

I see the review not as a continuance of a long and confusing controversy over the best way to get people hooked up with the Eaton Trail. I sense that fight has been settled and relegated to another era.

I see the review as a reminder, a big Post-It note if you will. Now that Measure P has failed, what about trails in other parts of town?

The commission is being asked by the Public Works Department to recommend approval of several development documents for what amounts to be a trailhead along the San Joaquin River.

According to the staff report, the project consists of an access roadway, a surface parking lot for about 40 vehicles, public restrooms, picnic areas and landscaping near Spano Park. As many as 12 trees would be removed. They would be replaced on a 5-to-1 ratio.

Says the staff report:

“The appropriateness of the proposed project has been examined with respect to its consistency with goals and policies of the Fresno General Plan and the Woodward Park Community Plan; its compatibility with surrounding existing or proposed uses; and its avoidance or mitigation of potentially significant adverse environmental impacts.”

The proposed project will eventually go to the City Council.

One other detail: The access point would be at Palm and Nees avenues. Of course, this is old news. The San Joaquin River Conservancy board made that decision a year ago on an 8-6 vote. The board rejected an access point through a residential neighborhood along the bluffs.

The significance of the Planning Commission’s review is that it appears we’re finally close to making some dirt fly. And when that happens, old and discarded alternatives tend to fade away along with the passions that stirred public debate.

I didn’t see in the staff report or the online attachments when the Palm/Nees trailhead project and its incorporation into an expanded Eaton Trail would be finished. For the sake of argument, let’s say that date is relatively soon.

Outdoor enthusiasts who can get there will be blessed.

A fair portion of North Fresno is blessed with a trail network. This network is connected to trails in Clovis. I sometimes walk along North Fresno’s trails. It sure beats Fresno’s gritty sidewalks, with seemingly endless traffic bearing down on the urban hiker. On top of that, I’ve come to the conclusion after decades of walking Fresno’s streets that it’s a foolish endeavor. To walk Fresno’s streets is to be viewed as different. The result is too much harassment by strange people and paranoid people and official people.

I’m tired.

Maybe access to some good, long trails throughout other parts of Fresno would rekindle my enthusiasm for walking in Fresno.

That’s where Measure P and the challenge facing Mayor Lee Brand come into play.

Measure P, the 3/8th cent sales tax initiative to fund better parks, failed to get the necessary two-thirds voter approval in the Nov. 6 general election.

The 30-year measure would have generated about $38 million in its first year. That amount would have grown as the local economy grew.

By my reading of the plan, Measure P right out the chute would have spent more than $4 million per year on trails.

The measure stated that “improving walkability and trail and sidewalk access to the network of park facilities is important for our health, helps drive the economy of nearby businesses, and improves the user experience for residents….”

The Measure P supporters have it right. I don’t see how Fresno will be attractive to Big Business looking to plant job-producing roots here if we don’t have good walking/biking trails in every major section of town.

The Mayor has said on many occasions that he agrees. The principled opposition to Measure P was based on the conviction that a sales tax boost, never an easy thing to bring to voters, should include funding for other vital municipal services such as police and fire protection. The Mayor has it right, as well.

Now that Measure P has failed, the time isn’t far away when the Mayor must get the ball rolling on his own “restoration” sales tax measure, one that can be supported by both public safety and Measure P’s heroic advocates.

Keep in mind that Measure P, according to the latest results, easily received more than 50% support – 61,657 yes votes to 56,509 no votes. Fifty-two percent is a far cry from two-thirds, but nearly 62,000 votes are an extremely strong statement in any election that goes by a simple majority.

Such as a mayoral election.

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George Hostetter

George Hostetter is a contributor to CVObserver.

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