biking paths are part of the River Parkway Project

Two draft Master Plans were presented Tuesday of the San Benito River Parkway and the River Parkway Focus Area & Regional Park. The following is a presentation by County Parks and Recreation Analyst Janelle Cox to the Board of Supervisors:

To quote Tom Peters, well known American author on business management practices, “Celebrate what you want to see more of”. 

So, today we celebrate a community working together to create a vision for a 20-mile, multi-purpose river parkway, along the San Benito River and Tres Pinos Creek corridor,  from San Juan Bautista to the County Historical Park, complimented with a 52-acre Regional Park, centrally located adjacent to Hollister downtown. 

The multi-purpose trail provides the opportunity to recognize and appreciate the beauty and value of our agricultural lands and cultural heritage, will serve hikers, bikers, and equestrians, on various surfaces, and provide additional recreation opportunities, such as disc golf and bird watching. 

The community envisions a Regional Park that fosters land stewardship and provides educational opportunities, cultural/theatrical/music venues, sports fields and an aquatics center for youth, teens, and senior adults, and enhanced economic opportunities – such as food concessions and bike rentals. 

At the core of all “celebrations” is thankfulness.

So, I would like to thank SSA Landscape Architects for completing an outstanding assessment of existing site conditions, working in partnership with staff and the community to gather input on the projects, and compiling the data into the Master Plans before your today.  Steve Sutherland, Principal is here today. 

I further thank the Advisory Committee and residents of SBC for providing input and recommendations to create a River Parkway and Regional Park conceptual design that meets the needs of the residents of San Benito County and creates opportunity for economic vitality.

What you see inherent in these Master Plans are the Vision, Goals, and Concepts identified by the Community. 

I’m going to briefly walk you through the content of the two documents, starting with the River Parkway Master Plan

River Parkway

1. This master plan recognizes the rural character of the County. 

-There was extensive and thorough site analysis completed to ID existing geological, biological, and cultural resources.  (P. 4 and Appendices) 

-Much of the land is in private ownership.

-Development of the River Parkway will ensue as funding is available to both purchase and maintain the project, and agreements executed with willing sellers.

-Therefore, no specific trail alignment is identified in this master plan.

2. This document provides General Trail Design Guidelines and concepts – identifying the variety of trails designs to accommodate the various settings (Agricultural, Urban, Confined, Floodplain, and Roadway).  (P. 51; matrix P. 57)

3. Recognizing the unique features of the county and opportunity for multi-use, the master plan encourages connectivity to regional trails (The Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, Hollister Hills, and Monterey/Santa Clara Counties), public roadways and bicycle paths, and easy access for users.   

4. The Master Plan also divides the length of the trail into “Reaches” or sections with specific themes, and key features. (P. 18)

Focus Area

-Recognizing that this area will most likely be developed first (proximity to urban area, willing sellers), the Master Plan includes conceptual plan layout and program elements for the River Parkway, identified in 4 sections:  trails, staging areas, restrooms, etc.  (P. 26)

-This master plan also includes the Regional Park, proposed to have a rural, farm look; and, includes the elements identified as priorities to the residents:  a central hub, recreational opportunities to serve youth, families, and senior adults, sports complex, aquatics center, community center, and amphitheater.  (p. 35)

-The estimated construction costs of the Regional Park (at $41M) and annual maintenance costs of 1.5 miles of the trail ($86k) are included in the Master Plan. (appendices)

Implementation of these projects is a multi-pronged approach with the County taking the lead and coordinating the effort:

Seek funding for land acquisitions and improvements

Foster partnerships, volunteerism, stewardship.  Construction and ongoing maintenance of these projects depends upon partnerships and volunteers. 

Incorporate trail and staging areas into development projects.

Coordinate routes with local agencies

Work with willing sellers on land acquisition and easements

Completion of these Master Plans is Phase 1 of the development process

Once completed, these parks will provide a transportation avenue and a hub for physical, cultural and theatrical activity and enhanced economic viability for SBC.

Next Steps

Public Works has negotiated agreements that are coming to you for the Environmental Review, which will take 9 – 12 months to complete. 

With your recommendation today, staff will continue with the Outreach effort designed to create sustainability for parks and recreation in San Benito County:

Establish Parks and Recreation Champions, Develop a sponsorship policy, resent these projects to the public and legislative representatives as they proceed through the environmental review; and Begin the process of establishing partnerships for the development and maintenance of these projects.    

I’m going to end today as I started, “to celebrate what you want to see more of”.

So, I thank the residents of SBC who support enhanced parks and recreation opportunities for the community and I thank your Board and the Boards before you, who supported the development of parks and recreation facilities for the citizens of San Benito County.  Without your vision, support, and direction, these Master Plans would not be before you today. 

What are your thoughts on a public River Parkway and Regional Park? Please leave your comments below.