Downtown Atascadero: Plans for creek coming into focus

A pedestrian bridge will provide access between Colony Square and Sunken Gardens.
A pedestrian bridge will provide access between Colony Square and Sunken Gardens.

Plans for Atascadero’s new creekside plaza and footbridge — the latest efforts in the city’s downtown revitalization — continue to take shape with fresh additions such as memorial bricks and a time capsule.

The City Council last week approved the design of the multi-element project for the area of Atascadero Creek between the Sunken Gardens and Colony Square. Construction is slated for next year.

Also included in the plans are a walking trail, creek habitat work and improvements to an adjacent public parking lot that’s currently dedicated to construction on the historic City Hall.

The trail would stretch from Lewis Avenue to El Camino Real along the creek’s top slopes. The plaza is planned for the bridge entrance off Sunken Gardens. Renderings currently show a brick courtyard with flowers and benches. A time capsule could be installed in a decorative concrete area in the center of the plaza.

Planners noted that all benches should have a center arm rail to help prevent anyone from sleeping on them.

Atascadero’s Design Review and Parks and Recreation commissions earlier this month suggested moving the trail closer to the water, adding signage for downtown and local landmarks, and providing electrical hookups for events.

The whole project has an approved budget of nearly $3.1 million. Estimates were released in the fall, and planners say specific figures are due in December.

The city’s redevelopment agency would fund the project, except for the trail, which would be funded by state grants. If the state succeeds in its recent efforts to dissolve city redevelopment agencies around California, the project would be in jeopardy.

The City Council is supportive of the work; members say they’re excited that it could arrive by the city’s centennial celebration in 2013.

The Atascadero Historical Society, a group that operates on the project’s surrounding property, is also happy with the plans.

Society members recently asked to realign the trail so it didn’t cut through the historic Tent City attraction during the annual Colony Days event. The city and society agreed to move future Tent City locations to the adjacent Sunken Gardens, which would provide more room for the event.

Completion of the creek project would be just the latest in a series of efforts to change the look of Atascadero.

The most recent effort to revamp the downtown was finishing historic-looking light posts and decorative sidewalks on El Camino Real’s Atascadero Creek Bridge.