The award recognizes a project that demonstrates outstanding planning, design, and implementation, that enhances the trails movement in the specified location. Submissions describing the trail, greenway (or trail or greenway system), or blueway including successful aspects such as planning, design, challenges solved, public participation, sustainability, economic benefits, promotion, and benefits to the local community are encouraged. Level One: Projects funded with less than $500,000.
Located in Winters, California, the Putah Creek North Bank Trail is the public access portion of the larger Putah Creek Nature Park project that includes over 5 phases along the Putah Creek corridor.
The first phase included the re-use of the historic railroad trestle bridge, turning it into a pedestrian/bike crossing. The second and third phases included the realignment of the creek low-flow channel along with extensive habitat reconstruction to restore the creek to its natural streambed alignment and beauty.
The North Bank Trail encompassed the fourth phase and connects the historic downtown and Rotary Park with the creek and the surrounding neighborhoods via a gracefully undulating trail that travels along the creek and preserve. The trail includes a wooden pedestrian overlook deck placed under the historic railroad trestle pedestrian bridge providing a unique resting point and lookout area.
The trail was designed to have enhanced accessibility and allows emergency vehicle access to the remote areas of the trail. Along the way, other viewing, resting and access points down to the creek were installed. A large design issue and construction challenge was the narrow right-of-way and steep slopes between the homes and the creek. We were able to provide an 8’ paved path with shoulders and grades that did not exceed 6% slope with elevation drops and gains exceeding 15 vertical feet. Construction techniques implemented to accomplish this task included the sustainable re-use of large eucalyptus longs as retaining walls, concrete retaining walls, rip-rap used to steepen slopes and rustic fences to keep the edges safe. Native wildflower seed was used as stabilization along the trail corridor and natural grassy swales provide drainage without the extensive use of drain pipes.
A new 225’ pedestrian/bike bridge along with south bank will be the fifth phase, completing the connection of this visionary nature park loop trail system.
Each planning, design, and construction phase of the project and each physical section of the trail had its unique opportunities, constraints, challenges and successes. Working closely with many community stakeholders and the Winters Putah Creek Committee, the City and the design team conducted over a dozen community meetings, council presentations, committee meetings, site walks and volunteer clean up days all focused on receiving input and feedback on the design of the trail. Two unique examples include:
Trail alignment staking – During the design process a surveyor staked the alignment of the trail and trees to be removed so that the public and users could see the trail design and make comments before the drawings were finalized. This was especially invaluable to easing public concerns regarding the removal of invasive eucalyptus trees.
Paved surface selection – Due to many concerns from the public about not wanting this to look like a “road”, the design team and the Winters Putah Creek Committee toured multiple trails and sites around the bay area to analyze different surface options. Stabilized decomposed granite, resin pavement, concrete and asphalt surfaces were reviewed in the field. Ultimately due to access and long term maintenance costs, asphalt was chosen as the surface. Ideas gained from the tour included keeping it unstriped and allowing the vegetation at the edges to overgrow and soften the hard edges of the asphalt, while still maintaining an all-weather surface for use by all.
Other coordinating and outreach efforts included: California Department of Transportation Local Assistance and Environmental Services divisions, since the project was federally funded. Yolo/Solano Counties, since the trail ends near a new car bridge, currently under construction. State of California Regional Water Quality Control Board to make sure construction did not pollute the sensitive waters of Putah Creek. Federal and State Fish and Wildlife agencies.
The main challenge of this project was environmental mitigation. Many Elderberry bushes are located on the project site which is a protected habitat for the Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle (VELB). Most plants were planted as part of volunteer efforts from previous projects and now had major set-back restrictions for improvements and grading. It became a great challenge to lace the path to avoid many of the Elderberries and a few were still unavoidable. This started a year-long environmental review and approval process culminating in the requirement of paying for credits into a mitigation bank for future habitat construction. In-lieu of paying to have mitigation planted elsewhere and to maintain the commitment to the Nature Preserve, the City decided to set aside a large portion of the site for a conservation easement area. This established an Elderberry habitat as well as provided additional habitat to mitigate for the future car bridge. This “conservation easement” was unprecedented for a project of this type. Post and cable fences encourage users from entering the sensitive habitats and signage educating the public on the different areas of the Nature Preserve.
With completion in February of 2013, the success of the project is inherent in the many users that travel it every day. Small children can ride their bikes from home to downtown without entering streets, elderly and the disabled can easily access the beauty of the creek because of the gentle grades of the path, and wildlife can be viewed nesting and flourishing along this successful habitat corridor. Putah Creek is a special place to the residents of Winters and to the surrounding communities. The vision of all those involved will continue into future phases of improvements which will all be linked to the centerpiece, the Putah Creek Park loop trail.