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Yuba City's riverside park taking form
With bulldozers and water trucks, wide paths are taking shape amid dense riverbottoms vegetation during the long-awaited construction of Yuba City's Feather River Parkway-Willow Island project.
Just three weeks into construction, a dramatic difference can be seen in certain project areas, where land has been flattened for a parking lot, trees and bushes were cleared for bike and walking trails, and weeds were removed for scenic viewpoints. The project is not slated for completion until spring, but plenty of people have already tested their tires on the trails, visiting riverbottoms areas never before seen by the average citizen, said Parks and Recreation Director Brad Mcintire.
The walking paths cut at least a 10-foot swath through trees and shrubbery, and more vegetation will be cleared out to create park-wide visibility intended to make visitors feel safe, he said.
"Our goal for this project is to have a continuous line of sight to the river," McIntire said. "You don't affect the environment, but you create a cool opportunity for people to experience it."
The project's first 80-acre phase is funded by a $1.4 million grant through Proposition 50's California Resources Agency to Improve River Parkways. On Thursday, McIntire met with the grant managers for the second time, boosting his hopes the parkway project's $1.7 million second phase is a serious contender for funding approval.
"I'm excited because it's taken us a long time to get to this point and it's exciting to see the project take shape," McIntire said.
Before the project could begin, it took years to get approval from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Fish and Game.
Then, the first step was to enforce city rules that prohibit camping in the riverbottoms, evicting dozens of homeless residents who were living in longtime encampments.
With the help of homeless advocates and public officials, the city gave the homeless eight weeks' notice of the planned eviction and tried to connect them with available services. Today, no one is believed to be living in the riverbottoms, McIntire said, but those who called it home for many years left behind a major footprint.
To date, 14 40-cubic-yard containers donated by Recology Yuba-Sutter have been filled with trash, and more are anticipated to be needed. Much of the garbage was plastic but included at least 100 broken shopping carts, soiled clothing and buckets of human waste.
The city anticipates it will spend about $80,000 in the cleanup process, said McIntire. The contractor and city workers went through each abandoned campsite and saved anything they determined could have been of value to the residents, included nonsoiled sleeping bags and clothing, camping equipment salvageable bike parts, fishing poles, books and even a $17 winning lottery ticket.
Everything was videotaped and documented on a map, and belongings were put into 95-gallon toters that will be stored by the city for six months. People who left behind items can go to the Yuba City Police Department and request to look inside a bin.
While it's still early, the contractor, RJ Heuton of Chico, is on pace to stay on time, McIntire said. The rock paths, stamped-concrete trail accessible to the disabled and the parking lot will be finishing this fall and interpretative signage and picnic tables will go up in spring.
"It'll be a great place to read a book, be covered from the sun and enjoy the river," McIntire said of scenic viewpoints.
Ninety percent of the trail's first phase have been cut and about 10 percent of the second-phase trails were cut when a fire tore through the riverbottoms in late July and the Fire Department utilized the contractor's machinery to use planned paths as natural firebreaks.
Fires have always been a problem in the riverbottoms because of the dense fuels, said Yuba City Fire Chief Pete Daley. In addition to the large fire that burned about 15 acres, five other fires have burned in the parkway area since July 31 — all set by humans.
At least one fire had multiple points of origin, and some of the homeless told firefighters they were trying to burn the trash to access the metal, Daley said. Because of the vegetation and tough terrain, any fire activity in the riverbottoms is a major danger.
He is hopeful the completed parkway project will help minimize fires in that stretch of riverbottoms.
"They are doing a good job of cleaning up a lot of the fuels, which makes it easier for us," he said. "The less fires we have down there and the more fuels they can move out and make it a nice park area, the less chance for people getting hurt."
CONTACT Ashley Gebb at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4783. Find her on Facebook at /ADagebb or on Twitter at @ADagebb.