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Salinas River Parkway Project was a collaborative effort with the Upper Salinas-Las Tablas Resources Conservation District, the California Conservation Corps, the Planning and Conservation League Foundation, the City of Paso Robles, Paso Robles High School, Amigos de Anza, the Salinan Indian Council, and volunteers and neighbors of the project.

arrow This project was nominated for a Partnership Award as part of the 2008 National Trails Awards, announced at the 19th National Trails Symposium in Little Rock, Arkansas.

 

Partnership improves trails and habitat along Salinas River

 

The Salinas River Parkway Project was established to not only preserve the scenic river and its wateer resources, but also to improve public access and celebrate the historical significance of the waterway. Collaborators sought the community’s help to preserve the work accomplished on the river trail and to respect the land around it. “Part of this trail is to help people understand the river, not just a fun place to walk,” said DJ Funk, a representative with the Upper Salinas-Las Tablas Resource Conservation District.

photo of crowd on trail

grand opening on the Salinas River Trail

Paso Robles, California lies midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The community of 29,500 is nestled in the coastal mountain range of central California. The signature natural feature of the town is the Salinas River which traverses Paso Robles on its way north to the Monterey Bay. The Salinas River is the largest California coastal watershed south of San Francisco. Over time, however, the watershed has been impacted by soil erosion and ecosystem degradation, leading to a loss of important animal habitat and riparian vegetation.

Concern about the condition of the river corridor and a desire to create recreational and educational opportunities led to a unique and fruitful partnership. In 2006, the Upper Salinas-Las Tablas Resource Conservation District (RCD), the City of Paso Robles, and the Los Padres California Conservation Corps (CCC) began work on a trail, located on City-owned property, that would achieve a number of objectives.

Funded by a grant from the California Resources Agency, the project included trail development, habitat restoration, and a strong focus on educating the public about local historical and environmental conditions. In addition to the objectives identified in the grant, the development of the Salinas River Parkway Trail would meet recreational needs of residents. The benefits of community trails are numerous; they promote health and fitness, they provide free recreation opportunities for low income residents, they boost tourism and they add to the character of the community.

photo of crew working on bridge

California Conservation Corps crew working on bridge

The project had a number of components, among them:

Design and build a trail

The trail connects and extends smaller pre-existing trails and walkways in the project area, resulting in an unbroken 1 ½ mile stretch of trail. The trail serves to get visitors close to the river so they can enjoy the unique surroundings. The topography required construction of two bridges and a causeway. Picnic tables, benches and trash cans were installed to enhance the experience of the user.

Restore riparian vegetation and enhance wildlife habitat

Recommendations from existing biological reports were used for improvement of the habitat and bank stabilization. Noxious and invasive weeds were removed, and replaced with species native to the riparian corridor, wetlands and Oak woodlands. RCD staff biologists monitored trail construction to ensure that no listed species were removed. Water quality monitoring was used throughout the duration of the project. The vegetation enhancement used bioengineering and holistic measures to reduce channel erosion and sediment transportation. Car bodies, appliances and other trash were removed.

Provide educational opportunities for trail users.

Interpretive signs were designed and installed. The signs, written in English and Spanish, guide people within the river corridor and provide informative descriptions of native wildlife and riparian vegetation, watershed system and linkages. The trail is in an area that was populated by Salinan Indians for over 10,000 years before the arrival of the Europeans. It runs along the route taken by Juan Bautista de Anza and his party as they moved from the Sonoran desert in 1775-1776, eventually founding the Presidio in San Francisco. These important historic connections are explained through the interpretive signage.

Developing the partnership

Each agency contributed valuable resources to accomplish the job. RCD provided management of project activities, grant administration, and coordination of the various participants. The City provided technical expertise, communication with neighborhood residents, and a commitment to operate and maintain the trail for a period of 20 years. The CCC provided crews to build the trail, install amenities, remove non-native invasive plants and replace them with native species. Other community organizations contributed additional help or expertise – Amigos de Anza, the Salinan Indian Council, and Paso Robles High School.

The advantages of the partnership quickly became evident. All parties had a common vision and were using their strengths to contribute to an endeavor that would benefit the entire community. The roles of the different organizations were clearly articulated and respected. Input was sought from the partners for important decisions. For example, when the interpretive signage was being designed, the RCD consulted with City staff to develop the content as well as the look of the signs. Communication was frequent and clear. As milestones were reached, increased trust was built between the groups. Meeting challenges together created the opportunity to find solutions in a collaborative manner. Insights and perspectives were examined that may not have come to light under other circumstances. The partnership allowed the organizations to use public funds effectively, avoiding waste and duplication of effort. With limited time and resources, none of the individual organizations would have been able to undertake the project. Through teamwork, the trail was completed on time and within budget.

The trail was completed in March of 2007. The grand opening ceremony was held in conjunction with the City’s first ever Community Walk Day. After a brief ceremony, guided walks were conducted along the trail. A special children’s hike was held, exposing youngsters to the wonder of the river environment.

The opening of the Salinas River Parkway Trail generated a high level of community satisfaction and interest. Additional relationships have been developed. A group of volunteers formed, the Salinas River Stewards. They make themselves available for monthly work days along the trail. A local non-profit, Parks 4 Pups, purchased and maintains three dog waste bag dispensers for the trail; their volunteers also walk the trail once a week to pick up litter, keeping it free of animal waste. Low income, high risk students work through a high school program to continue the vegetation restoration. The trail was the staging area for Paso Robles’ participation in a county-wide Creek Day in September, with over 60 volunteers attending to help clean up the river corridor. Plans for Community Walk Day and Creek Day are in progress for 2008.

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