Paso Robles plan sets sights on Salinas River

A boardwalk-like path along the Salinas River is among the ways Paso Robles’ leaders would like the natural resource incorporated into a plan to reshape the city.

The river, which bisects Paso Robles and runs parallel to Highway 101, is one aspect of the Uptown/Town Centre Specific Plan — a visionary outline of changes to neighborhoods, commercial use areas, roads and other elements on the city’s west side.

A draft of the $1.5 million, five-chapter document paid for by the city’s Redevelopment Fund was made public in summer 2009.

The discussion at a meeting this week married the river plan with a 2003 grant-funded master plan called Follow the River-Follow the Dream.

“It is hoped that over time, the visual quality of the area will improve and the river becomes a destination or amenity rather than a forgotten feature of our community,” said Community Development Director Ron Whisenand.

On Tuesday, the City Council and Planning Commission met one last time to gather public comment on draft recommendations for the river’s future.

In January, a final draft and its environmental studies will go before the commission and council.

Known as the “river vision,” the Salinas River segment in the overall plan “has created a set of ‘placeholder’ concepts,” city staff said, including trails, watershed protection and enhancement, public art and education opportunities and new downtown access.

Whisenand said one common fear regarding the plan is potentially changing Paso Robles Street from the service and industrial area it is now to a tourism district.

“We certainly don’t want to run businesses out of there,” Mayor Duane Picanco said Wednesday.

But current uses will still be allowed, Whisenand said, and the plan’s suggestions will be at the discretion of property owners.

Because the plan is largely visionary, most of the concepts lack specific timelines and include public, private and grant-funded endeavors not yet solidified.

Some members of the public were concerned that the city was focusing on a community overhaul during the economic downturn.

The leaders emphasized Tuesday that the changes are to give the community focus for when the economy bounces back.

“I don’t see (everything) happening in the next 20 years,” Picanco said. “But it’s good to have plans and future goals.”

Paso’s big plans for the river

Upcoming private and public projects in the plan may include:

Creating a master plan of river trails with details about their design, environmental impact and cost. Preserving and enhancing the river habitat.

Expanding land-use options for restaurants, coffee shops, bike rentals and other private businesses along the corridor.

Changing the city’s orientation to the river so more buildings face it.

Possibly locating the plan’s “paseo” – or path – along the river’s western bank from approximately 4th Street north to 12th Street for public use.

Adding a commercial center, equestrian area, hot springs interpretive center and amphitheater along the river.

Source: City of Paso Robles