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Yuba City's Willow Island readies for December opening
A lush trail, a boardwalk and a bike path all lead to the Feather River as part of the $1.6 million Willow Island project that Yuba City's top parks official said doesn't quite match its name.
The site owned by the city near Market Street and the 10th Street Bridge used to be an island, Brad McIntire, director of parks and recreation, said he has heard. But the river changed course and the land lost its island status, as the story goes.
What is gained in the four-year project is the trail rich in box elder trees that provide a tropical feel and the quarter-mile long boardwalk — accessible by wheelchair users — that leads to a landing overlooking the Feather River.
Yuba City officials hope to have the recreational area, formally known as Feather River Parkway-Willow Island, open in December. Larry Lloyd, manager of the Sutter County Resource Conservation District, looks forward to visiting the site where egrets gathered in the water on Wednesday.
"I intend to use it," Lloyd said.
A $1.4 million state grant funds the improved access to a beach on the Feather River, five restored acres of native habitat and the 2.5 miles of pathways. Yuba City provided about $200,000 in funding and is a finalist for a second state grant of $1.7 million that would pay for more trails and extend them to 76 additional acres as part of a second phase.
Gary Hurlbut, a parks and recreation commissioner for Yuba City who works for Roseville parks, said sites like the 176-acre Willow Island demonstrate a trend toward larger, less developed parkland. Trails in the back of the 100-acre Maidu Park in the Placer County city are well used, said Hurlbut, who sees people walking the land when he arrives at 6 a.m.
Along with the public interest in large, natural parks, the sites don't require the everyday maintenance of smaller pocket parks, he noted.
Willow Island won't have a disc golf course that was once planned after the state Department of Fish Game declined to issue a permit because of its impact on the land.
"It was a very big disappointment," McIntire said of the February decision by the state agency. Fish and Game concerns centered on how the discs used in the game would land around the property, he said.
"Frisbees go everywhere," McIntire said.
Design of the recreational area had to go around elderberry bush, protected habitat that is home to the elderberry beetle, by at least 20 feet, he said.
McIntire said Yuba City and Marysville school districts may use Willow Island as part their outdoor education curriculum for fifth-graders. Other students will benefit as well, said McIntire, who coached basketball for 16 years at Yuba City High School and is in his second year coaching at River Valley High.
He recalls players who couldn't afford to travel out of Yuba City — and said the new recreational area will provide them and others an opportunity here at home.
CONTACT Ryan McCarthy at rmccarthy@appealdemocrat. com or 749-4780. Find him on Facebook at /ADrmccarthy or on Twitter at @ADrmccarthy.