Plan calls for trails along Salinas River to link North County towns

Santa Margarita to San Miguel connection would be made by linking several paths along the seasonal waterway

tstrickland@thetribunenews.comOctober 20, 2013 

The dusty banks of the Salinas River cut through much of the North County, providing a popular corridor for dirt bike riders, native vegetation and the occasional springtime swim. And over the next two decades, a regional agency wants to help make the seasonal waterway into a system of trails to better connect North County communities.

The San Luis Obispo Council of Governments, a regional transportation-planning agency, has been working since last year to establish a 35-mile Salinas River Trail from Santa Margarita to San Miguel. The idea is to design several options for trails, walkways and bike paths along or near the river, so North County cities and governments have mapped out routes to choose from based on what’s best for their areas.

“It’s what we call taking a 30,000-foot view of the whole picture and then leaving it up to the communities to decide what little pieces they want,” said Geiska Velasquez, a SLOCOG regional transportation planner.

The options offer similar signs, striping and trail types so the connections will have a cohesive look at the end.

Atascadero resident Helene Neumann, 79, walks her black Lab, a rescue dog named Cheyenne, four miles a day and up to nine miles each weekend. For her, having more off-road trails to roam would be ideal.

“I think it would be good, because it’s really unique to have a trail. Around traffic, walking is just not relaxing,” she said. “I love … having no traffic or crowds, when you’re all alone with the wild. It’s wonderful.”

That’s similar to what leaders of the neighboring community of Templeton have been hearing from their residents.

The Community Services District’s recreation department recently completed a survey to see what activities and facilities people want.

“Among the top two items … are trails and hiking paths, walking paths and all that good stuff,” recreation supervisor Melissa Johnson said.

“This Salinas River Trail (plan) is going right along with what the community has expressed wanting.”

In the past few months, SLOCOG held public workshops on the plan to gather trail design ideas.

“There’s everything from walking down into the sand, to going on the softer river bluff, to riding bikes on the hard surface along the longer road stretches,” Velasquez said.

Some options are geared specifically at connecting trails that already exist, such as connecting bike paths between rural stretches.

One trail design is based on the city of Paso Robles’ recently completed section of trail along the river just below South River Road, between Navajo Avenue and 13th Street.

“Those are the constructed paths — the ones you’ll see up on the bluff for a nice walk-with-your-family experience off the main road,” Velasquez said.

The study also identifies options by how challenging it would be to create them. Private property boundaries, physical barriers such as a cliff or railroad, and general accessibility were all considered.

A draft of the plan, which can now be reviewed, is slated to go before the transportation-planning agency’s board of directors for final consideration in December. Then, North County governments can opt to adopt it into their own recreation plans.

COMMENT DEADLINE

The public has until Nov. 19 to comment on the plan before a final draft is written and considered for adoption in December. To review the documents, visit http://salinasrivertrail.com or the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments office at 1114 Marsh St. in San Luis Obispo.

Stay connected with Tonya Strickland by following @tstrickland on Twitter or by visiting Facebook.com/SLOTribuneNorthCounty.

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