Long road ahead – Obstacles to overcome for proposed Wolf Creek Parkway
Sandy Jacobson has seen trout swimming in Wolf Creek as it flows through downtown Grass Valley and would be delighted if others could see them while strolling a streamside pathway.
But the city’s recreation chief and project manager for the proposed Wolf Creek Parkway also knows that bringing it to fruition will not be easy – if it’s even possible.
“I anticipate this will be a challenge,” Jacobson said. “But there’s a tremendous amount of community support, and the end product would be great.”
The bulk of the community support is coming from the Wolf Creek Community Alliance, a group of local citizens dedicated to improving the 22-mile stream that flows from Banner Mountain to the Bear River. The alliance urged a study of the parkway concept during last year’s city budget process.
The City Council agreed and has hired the parkway-experienced RRM Design Group of Healdsburg for a $53,000 alignment study “to see where the trail could fit in,” Jacobson said.
Fitting the trail may be the major obstacle for the plan other than those who already oppose it. Many people do not even know the creek flows through the middle of the city because the waterway is tightly bounded by existing development, hidden by blackberry bushes and trees where open and obscured by the Golden Center Freeway through downtown.
A tight squeeze
The proposed greenbelt trail would go down Idaho-Maryland Road from Brunswick Road into and through downtown along the freeway service road. It would pick up again behind Safeway and extend to Glen Jones Park across the stream from the North Star mining museum.
“It’s steep and tight,” said Scott Graefen, a landscape architect for RRM Design. “The challenges would be working within the confines of the area and how we would realign the trail next to property.”
Graefen said community consensus will be important for the project, and he will be holding stakeowner interviews Feb. 14 and 15 for those who could be directly impacted. Graefen’s firm built the Prince Memorial Greenway through Santa Rosa, a very similar project where a concrete-dominated creek was turned into a walkway and habitat area.
Bill Haire is a former U.S. Forest Service trails coordinator now with the Nevada County Land Trust. He is also a member of the city’s steering committee for the parkway.
“It’s a very complex thing and hopefully people don’t have too high expectations,” Haire said. “I think it’s viable, but I think it will take many years to accomplish.”
The city might not be left with a large and scenic corridor, Haire said, but a walkway could still be an improvement.
“It could be nothing more than a sidewalk through downtown because you won’t replace Safeway, but I think it’s feasible for a creekside walkway from one end of Grass Valley to the other,” Haire said.
Wolf Creek Alliance member Sally Bartindale shares Haire’s restrained optimism.
“I think certain aspects are feasible, but we have to look at short term and long term,” Bartindale said. “It might take years to complete a parkway or there could be alternate routes.”
Alliance board member Jonathan Keehn said, “finding out if it is possible or not will also tell us how long it would take. The hope is that impacts (on the creek) through Grass Valley are lessened, and we’re hopeful it would be an attraction to people.”
Alliance member B.J. Schmitt said she is not sure a continuous parkway can be built, but might be possible “in a patchwork fashion. If you could go along the creek through town, that would be great.”
“I see it as a place for jogging, biking and lunchtime strolls,” Jacobson said. “If you look where the creek is, there’s relatively flat terrain.”
Jacobson said the proposal would have to be integrated with the planned changes for the Idaho-Maryland Road/Main Street intersection project, which will also alter the freeway where it passes close to the creek along the Bennett Street offramp. If the project is feasible, grant money is available to build it, Jacobson said.
“It’s another way to expand the parks system and take advantage of the beauty of the creek,” Jacobson said. “But until the stakeholder interviews come about, it’s very preliminary.”
• Stakeholder interviews – Call project manager Sandy Jacobson at 274-4322 for a Feb. 14 or 15 interview with the study consultant if you would be directly affected by the plan.
• Public meetings – Workshops about the parkway will be held at 6 p.m. on Wednesdays at the L.O.V.E. Building in Grass Valley’s Condon Park Feb. 23, March 23 and April 20.
Manzanita Diggins, Sugarloaf plans on hold
Discussions about Sugarloaf and Manzanita Diggins are temporarily on hold, Nevada City City Manager Mark Miller said Monday. The Mull family, which owns the hilltop property, called off a Jan. 24 meeting but is continuing to communicate with the city, Miller said.
The city is working with the family to acquire Sugarloaf, the hill north of Nevada City, to use as public parkland. The family also owns 100 acres adjacent to Sugarloaf, which it hopes to develop.
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