Over the Hill

Don't let vandals take over Salinas River Trail

Special to The TribuneApril 18, 2013 

Phil Dirkx

Last week I became a windbag. I wrote about the monument for the three workers killed during the construction of the Nacimiento Pipeline. I told of looking for their monument in the little park near Paso Robles’ 13th Street Bridge. I wrote, “It still wasn’t there.”

That was where I crossed the line from reporter to windbag. The monument was there and had been for some time. It just wasn’t in the places where I looked. It’s in a nice, shady spot.

I shouldn’t have relied on my own search. Eyewitness testimony is unreliable. I should have made calls and double-checked. That’s what real reporters do. I apologize to the Nacimiento Commission, to county officials and to you.

I’ll now try to make amends by describing the newest section of Paso Robles’ Salinas River Trail. I walked its full length twice, to and from my futile monument search. This new section meanders along the east bank for half a mile from Navaho Avenue north to the 13th Street Bridge. The older part of the River Trail extends south from Navajo Avenue to Charolais Road.

Paso Robles officials started planning this trail in 2003. They also wanted to restore and protect the river’s environment and water quality. They corralled state and federal grants for the majority of the costs. They generated some funds through the Paso Robles Festival of the Arts. The city put up most of the rest.

They bought property in and along the river channel. Over the years they built the trail, one section at a time. The newest section, which I hiked last week, is concrete, eight feet wide with two two-foot shoulders. It has lights and four benches.

It’s near a sandy, brushy channel. I wished we’d had more rain so I could have seen water and water critters. But nature still surrounded me.

I was troubled, though, to see vandalism. Yes, vandalism, although the trail officially opened just two months ago. Vandals smashed the tops and bulb compartments of some light bollards (post-like light standards.) They had to work hard to smash the tops of those concrete bollards.

It worries me. Is this secluded trail dangerous? Homeless people live in the riverbed. And in 1994 a Paso Robes woman walking on nearby River Road was killed by a man who pushed her down the bank to the riverbed and tried to rape her.

I hope people won’t let vandals capture this trail. Lots of foot and bike traffic should deter the vandals. Take precautions, go with friends if possible, but enjoy this trail. I plan to do so as often as I can.

Phil Dirkx has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column is published every week. Reach him at 238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.

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