‘Follow the River, Follow the Dream’ Land Management Plan approved
Modified: Thursday, Jun 17th, 2010
BY: Josh Petray
The next step in the city of Paso Robles’ Follow the River, Follow the Dream project moved forward last week when the City Council received and approved a Land Management Plan for a newly acquired property located along the Salinas River Corridor and which, with time, city officials hope to one day both preserve and conserve as a resource for equine, trail walkers, historical and cultural resources, biological resources and also serve as a deterrent to illegal dumping, graffiti, trespassing and crime.
The council voted unanimously to adopt a resolution moving forward with the plan.
During the meeting, Assistant City Manager Meg Williamson delivered a presentation on the vision of the plan, which has come to fruition through years of work and planning, property negotiation and coordination with multiple resources throughout the city including but not limited to the Festival of the Arts, which in short was able to provide matching funding through volunteer efforts to help support the project in the past.
The plan itself, in a nutshell, provides not a concrete vision of what would happen on the newly-purchased property but rather a model for looking at what could happen. During the meeting, Williamson offered the example of a potential amphitheater, which include live performances by the public near the riverside, and its size and location. A large, horizontal drawing strewn across the wall of the Paso Robles Library/City Hall Conference Center depicted an architectural interpretation of some of the property’s potential – trails, historic resources and more – with an underlying vision of trying to improve the water quality in the Salinas River and improve other watershed management practices.
According to Williamson, there was a time in the past during which, for one reason or another, the city turned its back to the river but that moving forward officials hoped to utilize the river area as a public space.
She said that an overarching management objective was water quality. Also to speak during the meeting was Land Conservancy Executive Director Bob Hill. Hill said that he wanted to talk a little about what the plan did and did not do. He said that an overarching management objective was water quality, among the other requirements by the state through the grant funding process.
“But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have other opportunities to provide compatible recreational use,” Hill said.
Among the things that the plan did not do, he said, was create affirmative obligations but rather goals and recommendations. He said that the timeframe for developing such projects was also flexible. Hill recommended things like surveys for water quality, birds and the like, “so that you can better understand what you’ve got.” He said he anticipated over the long-term, within say 10 years, he could see some of the things in the plan being implemented.
Hill brought in a senior project by a student that focused in on a particular portion of the river project. The student’s vision is just one example of how “with just a little bit of time and attention we can be creative and get a lot of things done,” he said. “Because a lot of people care about the resources.”
Williamson said that one question that arose from the public and those who attended workshops when the plan was conceived was how the plan would be implemented. Williamson said that the proposed action “very much takes it to the next level.”
There was some discussion during the meeting among council members about the plan. City Councilman Nick Gilman and Mayor Duane Picanco both said that they had some concerns about the plan but supported it with a yes vote.
When first built, Barney Schwartz Park in Paso Robles was a huge improvement for Paso Robles, but the cost to maintain it, at the tune of several hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, wasn’t anticipated fully when it was originally built, he said. Picanco cautioned about potential unanticipated maintenance costs for the Salinas River Corridor Project once developed. Community Development Director Ron Whisenand said that the cost of maintenance could not be accurately determined at that time because the development itself had not been planned for yet. According to city officials, there is flexibility on what could be built with the plan.
“It’s certainly a great vision, but the reality is that there is going to be some maintenance in the future, and at what point in the future do we study and address that?” Picanco said.
App said that no specific timeframe had been identified because city staff had not identified what actions would or wouldn’t be taken in the area. He said that in the past such as with Larry Moore Park, the city allocated funding explicitly not only to build but to maintain the facilities.
Gilman cautioned city staff about something in the plan that he said was maybe not anticipated – that the river progresses northward vegetation starts to increase along the river bed. He cited flood management as something city staff should consider as the plan moves forward. Gilman said that the plan only appeared to refer to the 150-plus acre acquisition itself and not the complete four-mile stretch. He also questioned whether or not the river in a particular area had been altered over time. Hill and the Land Conservancy, one of the partners for the project, said that the Upper Salinas-Las Tablas Resource Conservation likely made the findings based off of aerial photography.
Mayor Pro Tem Fred Strong commended the model pedestrian/bicycle overcrossing bridge, for which he said a model just like it had earned high distinction in the state. City Councilman John Hamon said that with the price of gasoline, he wouldn’t be surprised to see kids and would support them riding horses from places as far away as Santa Margarita along the river. City officials said that in addition for identifying equestrian use in the plan, there is also discussion about possible horse mounted patrol in the area. Also during the meeting, Parks & Recreation Services Manager Annie Robb said that both the city’s Parks & Recreation Commission, as well as the REC Foundation, fully supported the new land management plan.
No members of the public spoke during public comment on the item.
There was also discussion amongst council members about nearby sand mining operations. Several of the council members asked city staff about how the operations help clear the river of sand and other related questions. According to Williamson, city officials were not able to secure property with the grant funding available.