Why leaders are celebrating a new river trail that essentially goes nowhere

City leaders will gather Friday along the American River to celebrate what may seem to be an odd little civic project – a paved trail that starts at a little-known parking lot and essentially goes nowhere, coming to an abrupt end less than a mile away.

It’s the second section of what the city hopes some day will be a 7-mile, multiuse trail along the south bank of the American River.

More than a decade in the works, the Two Rivers Trail ultimately would run along the American River from the Sacramento River to the H Street Bridge at Sacramento State, where it would connect to Guy West Bridge and American River Parkway. It would skirt the outside base of the levee that loops along the American River north of downtown, midtown and River Park.

A few years ago, the city built an initial section about 2 miles long on the levee north of Richards Boulevard, ending at Highway 160. This new section is not connected to the first segment, though. The city doesn’t own the land yet between the two segments.


Two Rivers Trail

The trail would be a south-of-the-river alternative to the American River trail.
Two Rivers Trail completetion 
The Sacramento Bee

To keep the project moving, city officials spent $2 million to add this seven-tenths of a mile section from the skateboard park at Sutter’s Landing Regional Park to a dead end not far from where the Capital City Freeway crosses the river.

Councilman Jeff Harris, a leading advocate for the trail, said a fully built path will provide “a safe way to ride downtown ... and open parts of the river (for recreation) that people don’t get to now.”

While the existing American River Parkway trail on the north side of the river is popular and has some bridge links to the central city, he said, the new trail will be closer, more convenient, with more access points. It would give cyclists from Sacramento County suburbs, River Park and East Sacramento a faster, protected path into midtown and downtown Sacramento. While walkers and runners currently use the levee trails between Sacramento State and Sutter’s Landing, cyclists on road bikes struggle to navigate the gravel and dirt surfaces.

But Harris learned the first day he took office that it would not be easy to build, he said. That day, several years ago, he presided over a tense meeting of flood control officials who did not want the trail to be built on top of the levee.

Much of the remaining portion of the trail will be built at the toe of the levee, solving that issue. But other issues loom.

The next section would run under a trestle bridge carrying the Union Pacific Railroad Company’s main Northern California freight line, near the Capital City Freeway and River Park.

So far, UP has refused to let the city build under the trestle. The railroad company cited safety concerns, city officials say: The trestle has openings between the rail ties where debris can fall through, injuring someone passing underneath.

In recent meetings, though, UP appears to have softened its stance.

In an email to The Bee this week, UP spokesman Justin Jacobs wrote: “Union Pacific recently met with the city of Sacramento regarding the Two Rivers recreation trail and the proposal to extend the trail under our right of way. We are currently working through the proposal and look forward to reaching an agreement that will be a safe and viable option for both partners.”

Councilman Harris said the two are discussing how to cover the openings to eliminate the threat of falling material. Engineers with UP and the city are reviewing possibilities.

“The last meeting felt very productive,” Harris said. “UP, they are being realistic. They are not trying to stop a bike trail, we just need to address their concerns. There is almost always a solution.”

The city has put together funding to extend the trail under and beyond the trestle to H Street, and expects to conduct environmental reviews this year for that segment, with the potential for construction in 2019.

UP is not the only hurdle. Opposition recently has sprung up among some River Park residents. Opponents say the bike trail would provide a path into their neighborhood for homeless people.

Harris said he will hold a community meeting this spring to show residents the trail plans, answer questions and solicit opinions. He said he believes a bike trail on the riverside base of the levee would bring more people there, increasing safety.

“People have wanted this trail for a long time,” he said. “I think it is great for the larger community. But people are resistant to change.”

Tony Bizjak: 916-321-1059, @TonyBizjak

Related stories from Sacramento Bee