Almost 50 years since Johnny Cash introduced Folsom – and its prison – into the pop culture lexicon, the city is nearing the completion of an extensive outdoor tribute to the singer.
The full Johnny Cash Trail is set to be unveiled Oct. 14. Spanning 2.5 miles, it links a series of existing trails and marks the route of a planned public art walk that will be lined with works commemorating the Man in Black.
The first section of the trail, including the Johnny Cash Bridge designed after the East Gate guard tower of Folsom Prison, opened in 2014. The new 1.25-mile section joins with existing trails in Rodeo Park to provide cyclists, runners and pedestrians a route to Folsom’s historic district and the American Parkway Trail.
“First and foremost, the trail is a transportation and recreation facility in the city,” said Robert Goss, Folsom’s parks and recreations director. “Secondarily, it’s a celebration of the guy that probably made Folsom more famous than anybody else. The song ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ – everybody knows that song.”
Underscoring its link to Cash, about 90 percent of the new trail traverses property owned by Folsom Prison, where Cash recorded his iconic album “At Folsom Prison” in January 1968, Goss said.
Funding for the $3.23 million second phase of the trail has come from a variety of federal grants and local transportation funds, according to the city. But Folsom hopes to rely on fundraising and donations for the large-scale art pieces that eventually will line the trail and an adjacent three-acre park featuring amenities such as a small amphitheater.
A 40-foot steel sculpture of Cash, designed by the Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt-Amrany of Illinois, will rest in the middle of the park. Seven other works will be created by Adan Romo of Sacramento, who has a studio at 24th and U streets.
Romo’s works will include a 15-foot silhouette of Cash playing a guitar set against laser-cut steel bars, a “Ring of Fire” display made of swirling red guitar picks and two 7-foot black bronze guitar pick sculptures that will stand at either end of the trail.
Before submitting his ideas to the city, which sent out a national call for designs, Romo had been a fan of Cash’s music but knew little about the singer himself, he said.
“I was fascinated by his story, his connection with the downtrodden,” Romo said. “The reason he wore black was to represent the poor and oppressed, and all that really kind of resonated with me and helped me design these works of art.”
Goss said the city hopes to have raised enough money to commission the first of Romo’s works – the bookend guitar picks – by early next year. The full project, including the park and art walk, ideally will be complete within the next five years, he said.
Proceeds from events scheduled for the Oct. 14 grand opening will go toward funding the art pieces, according to a city release. The all-day celebration will include a ribbon-cutting, timed runs and a community bike ride beginning on the new trail (located near Rodeo Park), as well as an outdoor festival at Folsom City Lions Park. Goss said Cindy Cash, one of Johnny’s daughter, is expected to attend, along with officials from the Cash trust.
There also will be an outdoor dinner from Michelin-starred chef Duncan Holmes set on the Robbers’ Ravine Bridge, for which tickets cost $250. Those interested in helping to fund the completion of the Johnny Cash Trail project also can purchase space on a donor wall overlooking the future site of the legacy park, a Cash-themed cycling kit or a “JCASH 50” commemorative license plate made by Folsom State Prison inmates.
For more information, go to www.FolsomCashArtTrail.com.