San Joaquin River Bluff Initiative

FRESNO, Calif.

The challenge facing the city is convincing county leaders in Fresno and Madera and the state to get on board. Residents said cooperation is needed.

It's hard to top the view from the San Joaquin River Bluffs in North Fresno. And homeowners pay a premium to live here. Last year in July a fire threatened it all. The flames destroyed one home and damaged two others ... a discarded cigarette was to blame.

"I was home. And when it came up it was like a wall of flames coming through here," said Susan Natali, president of the Bluff Community Service District.

Natali said when it comes to policing this area no one enforces a uniform set of rules. And it seems people are taking advantage. Residents say this is where the problem begins. People are having too good of a time down by the river and eventually make their way up this bluff and onto private property.

"This is a challenging area that needs particular attention and the fire really opened the door," said Fresno Councilmember Andreas Borgeas.

Borgeas is presenting a new initiative that will change how the San Joaquin River and Bluffs are protected. His plan would be for state, county and city law enforcement agencies to work together. He wants to set hours of operation on the river- similar to a park, limiting camping to specific areas as well as bar-b-que'ing and restricting access to private land.

Borgeas said, "We're trying to unify the laws. So in essence this is an awareness promoting, cross jurisdictional public safety initiative."

Borgeas already has the support of local and state fire agencies, law enforcement and environmental groups like the San Joaquin River Conservancy which is led locally by Melina Marks. "It really allows people to recreate on the river but in a way that's safe and protects the resources," she said.

If the imitative does go into effect it could take months before residents here see a change.

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