State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has requested that California State Parks officials back off plans to approve an Old Sacramento State Historic Park general plan that includes an excursion train to the zoo and another one south of the city, saying he wants more public discussion of the states train plans.
In a letter to the head of parks Thursday afternoon, Steinberg said he believes the state has not given adequate notice to Land Park residents about a planned parks commission vote this afternoon on the general plan, which includes tentative plans for two excursion trains.
One excursion train mentioned in the plan would run from Old Sacramento to the Sacramento Zoo, cutting across a corner of the Land Park neighborhood. Another excursion train would run through farmland and a wildlife refuge south of the city from about Pocket Road to Hood Franklin Road. That excursion train would require periodic transport of trains on tracks through residential areas of Land Park and South Land Park.
State Parks officials say they do not have definite plans or funding yet for either excursion train, but are excited about the possibilities. A parks spokeswoman, Vicky Waters, responded to Steinbergs request by saying parks staff takes Steinbergs concerns seriously, but will leave it up to the parks commission today to decide what to do. It is up to the commission whether they are going to adopt the plan or hold the item for later considering.
The parks commission is expected to hear public testimony on the Old Sacramento park plan sometime in the afternoon at the state Resources Building downtown.
State Parks currently runs excursion trains for tourists and visitors from Old Sacramento along the Sacramento River to a spot south of Miller Park. A zoo train would travel on existing tracks over Interstate 5, with a station likely on the back side of the zoo. Steve Musillami, planning section manager for State Parks, said it is uncertain when such an excursion train could begin operation, but he estimated it would take at least five years to fund and prepare. Officials would need to build a station at the zoo in order to run trains there.
Musillami said State Parks officials have no timetable for establishing a second excursion train south of the city. He said parks officials do not know how often they would run trains through the rail right-of-way in Land Park. That right-of-way is unused by trains, but retains tracks in most places.
Musillami said parks officials see the excursion trains as a natural link to the citys history. He said state officials have had several meetings over the past couple of years with stakeholder groups in the area, and sent fliers about the plan to people who live close to the rail line.
Its a great, historic way of linking our signature park (Land Park) with our signature tourist attraction, Old Town, he said. It is a phenomenal experience.
In his letter, Steinberg, however, said he has heard concerns from local residents about potential noise, ground shaking, and other environmental impacts associated with the train plan that will run behind their backyards.
Steinberg requested the state hold off on a decision on the Old Sacramento plan until officials can have another meeting with residents to discuss the plans and hear resident concerns.
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