Children once walked along Sycamore Trail in West Sacramento’s Westfield Village neighborhood, but it wasn’t a safe place for kids. Adults hung out along the path, but moms and dads steered their families clear of the transients, trash, crime and drugs. For a while, the trail behind the neighborhood’s elementary school was closed altogether, abandoned and overgrown.
No more. On Tuesday, neighbors joined West Sacramento city and school officials, Yolo County leaders and local nonprofits to reopen a new-look Sycamore Trail. Tree-lined, dotted with benches and picnic tables, the half-mile neighborhood path is also envisioned by city leaders as one phase of a multimillion-dollar network of trails and parks across West Sacramento, stretching from Westfield Village to Southport.
“This is to become a project that will be the spine of West Sacramento,” Mayor Christopher Cabaldon said in brief remarks. Cabaldon said later that the city is applying for about $6.8 million in state grants to extend the trail to the Barge Canal off Jefferson Boulevard.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to link together the city’s north, center and south community,” Cabaldon said.
Never miss a local story.
It’s also a long time coming for families who are starting to see and feel positive change in a working-class Westfield Village that has long struggled with crime.
“There are more options for children to be safe. People here used to get arrested,” David Gallegos, 49, said at the trail, surrounded by his five children. “The city’s getting larger, but it’s more safe. People are paying attention. I see big changes out here and it has a lot to do with the city.”
The trail, north of West Capitol Avenue and west of Poplar Avenue, wends behind Westfield Village Elementary School. The path had long been a main route for neighborhood children walking and biking to and from the school, but it was a risky one, marred by transients, drug activity, burned-out and discarded furniture and worse.
“Moms demanded more,” said Katie Villegas, executive director of the nonprofit Yolo County Children’s Alliance. “Moms were walking their kids to school and were being solicited.”
A few years ago, the neighborhood had finally had enough. The city got the message and folks in the area went to work to make the trail safer, cleaner and more accessible.
First came the opening in 2013 of adjacent Westfield Park on the grounds of Westfield Village Elementary, providing safe, accessible open space in a neighborhood where such amenities are limited. West Sacramento, the Washington Unified School District, Yolo County Children’s Alliance and neighborhood groups joined forces to build the park. Kaiser Permanente pitched in about $150,000 toward the effort.
Sycamore Trail was next on the to-do list. The Yolo County Children’s Alliance worked with West Sacramento, marshaled workers from Northern California Construction Training and received $80,000 in grants from Wells Fargo Bank. West Sacramento also benefited from a grant from the Sacramento Area Council of Governments to clean up the trail.
“Neighbors said, ‘We’re going to make this neighborhood better starting with this trail.’ That’s how neighborhoods get better,” Cabaldon said. “This was a flag in the ground planted by the neighborhood.”
Wendy Green was at the trail with her son, Kenny Drew, and grandson, also named Kenny, 4. She was born and raised a few blocks from Sycamore Trail and witnessed its downward slide. Her son helped build the trail and Westfield Park, and on Tuesday, Green looked at the handiwork and her neighborhood with renewed pride.
“I’m really happy to see they’re doing a lot more for the kids. We need a lot more of this. It’s coming along,” Green said. “The higher-ups are starting to care. It’s nice to see.”
Call The Bee’s Darrell Smith, (916) 321-1040.