Should parking hold up trail development?

This Sunday, the Fresno Bee ran an excellent spread on the plans for the extension of the Eaton Trail in North Fresno. The article was somewhat familiar…about two years ago, I reported on the very same trail having not progressed even though planning had been ongoing for a decade. Even though two years have passed, nothing has happened.

Normally, you’d think the reason for the delays would be money. Not in this case. $30 million is sitting in the bank, waiting to be spent on river improvements, including the trail, bathrooms and canoe launches. If you want to know what the existing trail to the north looks like, I have a few photos here.

So whats the holdup? It’s Fresno, so naturally….parking. In a city that is overrun with parking lots of all shapes and all sizes, the Bee is stating that what is stopping construction on a walking, cycling and equestrian trail is insufficient parking.

Because naturally, one can only arrive at a walking and biking trail that would be connected to an already existing popular trail in a car. Bike to the bike trail? Please. This is Fresno.

“But what of those who want to come from tens of miles away!?”

Fair enough, the river can be a regional attraction. Not a problem. Parking already does exist. The trail would be anchored by Woodward Park, which has many, many parking spaces and very few users. Outside of 4th of July and the two annual concert events, those lots are always empty.

Let’s take a look. 

Green: Existing trail, ends at locked fence
Dotted green: Proposed trail
Yellow: The main large and always empty parking lots, including two very large lots to support the mountain bike racing courses. Very few events are held there.

This lot is a prime trail access point to the existing trail, and very convenient to the extension

Not one car.

Lets view the same lot two years later


Elsewhere in the park?


A little further north, the city built a lot for trail users on Copper and Friant. Ever seen anyone use this lot?

The other end of the trail would lead off a commercial development, which of course is home to many acres of parking, never used (that building is home to one of the rare underground garages in Fresno)


Clearly, a NEW car lot on the river basin is of the utmost importance! And that would be in ADDITION to another new lot which would be built outside of Woodward Park where the current trail currently ends.

The middle section would be in a residential neighborhood. Residents there are concerned that the trail would bring traffic to their streets. Right, because nothing says “gridlock traffic” like an access point to a trail.

As the Bee tells us, the residential neighborhood was built with roads equipped to handle an additional 1,500 homes thank thankfully never materialized…..that’s the land now in the hands of the river conservancy.

As you can see, here are the roads that lead to where the trail access would be. How wide are these residential streets? A shocking 5 lanes wide. No homes actually face the streets, so any street parking would have zero affect on residents.  The road is widen enough for diagonal parking on both sides. Not that any would be needed. Again, if the region’s premiere park is always a ghost land, how many people do you think would drive to this specific access point? At most, on the busiest of weekends, I’d wager you’d find five cars at a time.


So who’s demanding the parking?

In an absurd plot twist, it’s the people who have this as their mission statement:

The San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust’s mission is to
preserve and restore San Joaquin River lands having ecological, scenic
or historic significance, to educate the public on the need for
stewardship, to research issues affecting the river, and to promote
educational, recreational and agricultural uses consistent with the
protection of the river’s resources.

Nothing quite preserves the ecological, scenic
or historic significance of the river quite like parking lots in the basin! 

What happened is that the city has sided with the rich bluff-residing NIMBY’s and stated that a parking lot shouldn’t be built. The NIMBYs naturally don’t want any parking near them because of the “traffic” that would be generated. Frankly, you could build a 2,000 slot garage and the amount of traffic wouldn’t exceed that of a single family home, which is why I propose they simply re stripe the existing road for diagonal street parking (which would never be used anyway).

Instead of cheering that they can save money AND protect the river….the trust is throwing everything they have at building new parking lots.

The Bee article ends with the following:

For now, a key piece of the San Joaquin River Parkway remains stuck in limbo. “I have trust in the process,” Marks said. “Eventually there will be a trail system we can all go out and enjoy.”

Read more here:

Apparently not in Fresno, where concerns over parking have been taken to such an absurd length that it becomes difficult to separate satire from reality.

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