City of Fresno working on plan to give residents San Joaquin River access

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The San Joaquin River Conservancy is trying to develop 400 acres along the river as part of the expansion of the trail system from Woodward Park. It's called the River West Trail Project. (KFSN)

The City of Fresno is trying to figure out how to let residents gain access to the San Joaquin River.

The San Joaquin River Conservancy is trying to develop 400 acres along the river as part of the expansion of the trail system from Woodward Park. It's called the River West Trail Project.

The problem seems to be how to let people access the parkway without upsetting the neighbors.

The San Joaquin River Parkway will eventually include 400 acres along the river in north Fresno. It's been planned for years, but the hangups are public access.

The Fresno City Council just approved spending close to $200,000 to pay for studies to figure out if a road could be built down a hill at the end of Palm and Nees Avenues so residents can get to the river, but the plan is facing criticism.

"What I found were numerous errors, significant, and when I say numerous, I mean dozens of errors in it," Radley Reep said.

While the city dispute errors, Reep and others say the city's idea to consider building a road over an old landfill down to the river is misguided - especially since the original plan to get to the river down Riverview Drive at Audobon would be cheap and simple.

But residents in the bluffs neighborhood have objected to that route, so the city came up with a plan that council member Steve Brandau supports.

"We are going to spend a little money to prove that Palm and Nees is a fantastic access point," he said.

But Sharon Weaver, director of the San Joaquin River Parkway Trust, believes it's a bad idea and says it's a road so expensive it will never be built.

"Of course it's technically doable, but the question is does it make sense for the City of Fresno to spend money on a $2.5 million road potentially could be more than that," she said. "That's the engineer's estimate in the report that I just gave to you when you actually have two other roads that go to the same place within about 300 yards of each other."

Weaver believes the route is an impractical alternative that will simply delay the entire project. The Conservancy, a state agency, has already paid for environmental impact studies for other routes and found the city's Palm and Nees location is obviously flawed.

And there is another road just yards away that could be considered, but the legal conditions for that road are that it can only be used in conjunction with the Riverview Avenue access point, which the neighbors don't want.

The city wants its proposal included in the environmental impact report which must be concluded by the end of the year. But if an agreement isn't reached on a Fresno access point, the only way to drive to the river from Fresno would be by going on 41 to Madera County then back down the old Highway 41 - a 10-mile detour to access to what's in Fresno's backyard.

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