Renee C. Byer /

Jared Funakoshi walks his German shepherd along the levee trail in the Pocket. The city would have to buy easements to complete the Sacramento River Parkway.

Editorial: City needs to refocus on completing Sacramento River Parkway

Published: Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 - 12:00 am

The dream of extending the Sacramento River Parkway through the Pocket was always going to run into the hard reality of the cost.

Now we know how high that hurdle really is – $6.95 million to acquire public access easements atop the levee, plus $7.5 million to build a 12-foot-wide asphalt trail for bicycles and pedestrians, according to a staff report the City Council received this week and is to discuss Tuesday.

While it’s a big number, it’s not insurmountable if the public and the private sector both step up.

City Hall should contribute, certainly, and it should aggressively seek any possible state and federal grants. But this project would happen much sooner with donations from individuals and nonprofit groups such as Friends of the Sacramento River Greenway, the Sacramento River Parkway Coalition, Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates and WALKSacramento.

This is a cause well worth the community rallying around.

First, City Council members need to re-engage on the parkway and make clear to staff that it’s a high priority. The nonprofits make that point in a letter delivered Thursday to the mayor and council members; so did the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission earlier this month.

Momentum does seem to have slowed since November 2012, when council members voted unanimously to proceed with a parkway plan. They funded a study that found that of 47 properties in the Little Pocket area, nine are either owned by the public or already have public use rights, leaving 38 privately owned parcels. Of 120 parcels in the Greenhaven/Middle Pocket area, 72 are in private hands.

An appraiser calculated the easement costs, but they do not include environmental studies, real estate costs or staff time. The estimates also assume willing sellers, so do not include additional costs if the city had to go to court.

That’s a big assumption. Some homeowners oppose the proposal, saying their privacy would be violated if bicyclists and joggers could peer down into their yards and houses. A few have gone so far as to put up fences and gates.

City staffers plan to contact all the property owners. A city parks spokeswoman says that state grants are available if there are willing sellers, but the city would be hard-pressed to move ahead otherwise.

With city approval, Friends of the Sacramento River Parkway plans a private fundraising campaign. It also says that the trail could be extended in phases as money becomes available.

It makes the most sense, the group says, to focus first in the Little Pocket, where fewer easements are necessary. Completing that section would also link two existing trail sections (Miller Park to the Westin hotel, and 35th Avenue to Zacharias Park), eliminate a troublesome bicycle detour on Riverside Boulevard and open up public access to the city’s Chicory Bend Park.

Like the American River Parkway, the trail along the Sacramento River is a wonderful place for recreation and relaxation. But the gaps in the Pocket prevent it from reaching its full potential as one of the region’s treasures.

It’s time to finally complete the Sacramento River Parkway.

Read more articles by the Editorial Board

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