About the Colony

How I'd improve Atascadero's Highway 41 corridor

Lon Allan
Lon Allan

The city of Atascadero has hired a consultant to draft an overall plan for improvements along the Highway 41 corridor, that is, on Morro Road starting at El Camino Real and continuing west past the zoo, ending at San Gabriel Road.

One public workshop was already held last month, and at least two more are scheduled between now and the end of the year.

According to a news release from the project coordinator, Loreli Cappel, the city’s primary goal is to “provide connectivity between the downtown and the Lake Park and Zoo.”

Historically this area was known as “Morro Flats.” Atascaderans could count on the area being flooded during winter storms. The late Klaus Heilmann told me he and his brothers would often be called upon to use one of their tractors to pull a car out of the mud there.

The state raised the road level between the highway and the zoo about 60 years ago, putting an end to the flooding problem. There are still open trenches along portions of Morro Road intended to carry off storm water.

An entire flood control district that imposed specific building guidelines was put in place in this same area by the county in the 1970s, called the Tecorida Area Flood Control District.

Anyone living in Atascadero travels the road almost daily, going to work, heading to the beach or the lake park.

I took a drive along this approximately two-mile stretch Sunday morning in anticipation of writing this column.

I’ve always thought curbs and sidewalks give order to a place, so for what I consider this city’s main entrance way, I’d encourage that the intermittent sections of curbs and sidewalks be completed between the freeway and the lake park. This will make the entire area friendlier to pedestrians and bicyclists.

A number of nice projects have emerged along this section of town already, such as Moresco Plaza, the Gearhart Building (corner of Atascadero Avenue and Morro Road), the older Golden West Professional Plaza and even Tecorida Plaza, with its parking lot full of trees. The entire area should have more trees, especially the barren parking lot next to the restaurant at Portola and Morro roads.

And whatever happens, let’s hope the city never, ever again approves a commercial or professional complex like the one in the 7300 block that resembles a lineup of portable toilets.

The perfect example of how awful this area can look exists between the freeway and Atascadero Avenue.

Whatever kind of development plan is adopted by the city, I hope that it is enforced, unlike the city’s plan for Craftsman-style construction on all buildings at the lake park wherein we got what looks like the Mars space station as a headquarters for the Charles Paddock Zoo.

Watch for announcements of future public workshops regarding this area.

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