Controversial plan to allow public access to San Joaquin River Parkway won approval

FRESNO. (KFSN) -- On an eight to six vote the members of the San Joaquin River Conservancy, voted to approve what was known as Access Point 5B, at Palm and Nees. It is the route preferred by a group of residents who live on the bluffs overlooking the River.

"I see this as a win for the residents of Fresno, we want to make this happen we are totally committed to making this happen," said Pete Weber.

Supporters of the other proposed access point, known as Alternative 1, at Riverview Drive, disagreed.

"We see the adoption of an option that destroys a city park, that overlooks the river it is going to completely destroy a bluff and old growth sycamore trees and then it builds a road that cost $3 million dollars more than the other option that I supported one, to a site that is still a landfill," said Tom Bohigian.

The San Joaquin River Conservancy board is made up of local elected officials and representatives of state agencies, and just two regular citizens appeared. The majority appeared swayed most heavily by support for 5B by the City of Fresno. Former City Manager Bruce Rudd, acting as Mayor Lee Brands special representative made it clear the city wanted 5B and could make life difficult if any other option was chosen.

"And what I was trying to convey, and if it was taken as a threat that wasn't the intent and there is a reality that you need to partner with us," said Bruce Rudd.

Despite the vote, those who want to see Alternative 1 have not given up because the board added that they would give supporters of 5B one year to work out the considerable construction, legal and environmental obstacles. If they fail, Alternative 1 would prevail.

"At least the conservancy voted today, they didn't vote in our favor, however, they kept the door open for alternative 1 which we would like to see so we still have hope for the future we might have access there," said Sharon Weaver.

The state of California purchased this more than 5 hundred acres along the San Joaquin River as a park, for $10 million. Authorized Public access has been restricted for a dozen years, and the wait continues.
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