Sycamore Island opens early to give Valley residents a local escape

FRESNO COUNTY,Calif. (KFSN) -- A local hidden gem is opening earlier than normal this year to give Valley residents a safe, socially-distant way to get out of the house.

"I feel better immediately when I get to get outdoors and walk around in an open space like this," said Sharon Weaver, the executive director at the San Joaquin Parkway and Conservation Trust. On Friday, they opened Sycamore Island to the public, a 600-acre nature area that's open for fishing, boating, bird-watching and more.

The area, which runs along the San Joaquin River just north of the Madera County line, typically doesn't open until February, but organizers saw a need from residents who have been forced to stay at home during the state lockdown.

"We know that it's so important for people to have the opportunity to get outdoors, to exercise, to get a breath of fresh air," Weaver said. Sycamore Island is very close to Fresno, near Valley Children's Hospital.

It features opportunities to fish on the river or on seven individual ponds, like James Ellis of Clovis was doing on Friday. He was fishing at the trout pond, which had improvements added in late 2020.

"It was just ponds, there was no ramp, there was no pier to walk out on, so they've put some money into it," Ellis said. "I'm impressed."

More than 80 people were there on opening day. The nature area will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until mid-November. There's a $9 entrance fee for each vehicle, which goes towards keeping the area staffed.

Boat ramps for light-weight fishing boats are also available. Canoe and kayak rentals are available on-site.
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