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Plan To Bring Public Access To River West Open Space Delayed

Nov 16, 2017

After a nearly seven hour-long meeting, the board of the San Joaquin River Conservancy has delayed making a decision on where the public will have vehicle access to the River West open space area.

Over 100 people packed Fresno City Hall Wednesday voicing their concerns on whether a street and parking lot should access the property through a commercial development at Palm and Nees, or from a residential neighborhood via city-owned Riverview Drive, which currently ends at the top of the bluff.

Nearby homeowners say allowing access from Riverview Drive, under a plan called Alternative 1, would hurt their quality of life and contribute to traffic and crime. They favor providing access to River West from Palm and Nees, calling that location more accessible. In recent years, the city's general plan was amended to insert a prohibition accessing the riverbottom from Riverview Drive.

But critics of the Palm and Nees access road, also known as Alternative 5B, say it could be more expensive than Riverview, would cut through Spano Park, and could have environmental cleanup problems. The property at 5B was once a landfill. Current plans estimate Alternative 5B could cost around $5 million. The conservancy staff currently doesn't have an estimate for the cost of Alternative 1. Critics of 5B include the non-profit San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust.

The plans are set to come back before the conservancy board for a vote on December 13th, when board members hope to have more information about what Alternative 1 would cost. While the board failed to make a decision on the preferred entrance site Wednesday, it did vote to certify the project's environmental study.

The conservancy has owned the 400-plus acre riverbottom property since 2003, but has yet to formally open the land to the public. When completed the property will be a part of the San Joaquin River Parkway, and include a 2.5 mile extension of the Lewis S. Eaton Trail.