River West Fresno
What's Happening Now
Click here for our most recent River West project eblast.
On August 12, 2020, the Conservancy board approved an addendum to the project environmental impact report (EIR) that allows for vehicle access at Alternative 1. Unfortunately, the board also approved "reasonable progress" on the benchmarks that were supposed to be met by the neighbors group incorporated as the San Joaquin River Access Corporation (SJRAC). During closed session, the Board also approved a settlement agreement with the SJRAC to end their litigation against the Conservancy regarding Alternative 5b. We don't yet know what the settlement agreement says, as it will not be released to the public until it is signed by all parties.
On March 28, 2019, the Conservancy was sued by a group of people opposed to Alternative 1, who have created an organization called the San Joaquin River Access Corporation. Since that date, the Conservancy has been in negotiations with the plaintiffs and recently voted on a settlement agreement contingent on discussion and approval of certain provisions at a public meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, August 12, 2020. Click here to review the Conservancy board agenda and packet.
On February 27, 2019, the Conservancy Board voted to direct staff to bring back the required findings under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) that would allow them to choose Alternative 1 for access to the site. This was a major triumph for all of us that want a faster process to a final project. It also means that Spano Park, the river bluff, and the mature Sycamores growing on the slope are at least temporarily safe. For more information about the meeting and outcome click here to read our news blast.
The San Joaquin River Conservancy is proposing a project to extend the Lewis S. Eaton Trail approximately 2.5 miles on over 500 acres of public land. The project site is called Spano River Ranch or River West Fresno and is located between Highway 41 and Palm Avenue.
The River West Fresno project will provide public access to 500 acres of open space and the San Joaquin River. Once complete, there will be a continuous trail from the River Center on Old Friant Road to Palm and Nees.
What's at Stake
The proposed River West Fresno project includes one vehicle access point at the Perrin Avenue Undercrossing off of Highway 41. This is excellent access for residents of Madera County, but requires an additional 10 mile round trip for Fresno residents to access this Fresno property. Fresno residents would have to drive in to Madera County on Highway 41, and then back into Fresno on the old 41 bridge to reach the site.
The Environmental Impact Report studied several project alternatives to provide additional vehicle access to the project site from Fresno. Alternative 1 would provide access at Riverview Drive just off of Audubon, a public road to a public property. Alternative 5 would provide vehicle access on an old gravel haul road the end of Nees Avenue. The River Parkway Trust is encouraged the Conservancy Board to approve the River West EIR with Alternative 1 —providing additional vehicle access to the project site from the City of Fresno.
Here's a quick review of why the River Parkway Trust supports Alternative 1:
- Riverview Drive is a public road that leads directly to the existing entrance gate for the River West Fresno site
- Riverview Drive is not a residential street - there are no houses or driveways that face onto the road
- Riverview Drive was built to serve the 1500 home development planned for the site back in the early 1980's.
Instead of approving Alternative 1, the Conservancy chose to approve the project with the addition of Alternative 5b. This alternative was developed by the City of Fresno. This is different from the Alternative 5 in that it does not use an existing road. Instead it requires the construction of a new road into the riverbottom. This road would be built through the middle of Spano Park, down the steep bluff face at the end of Palm Avenue, and culminate in a parking lot on an old landfill. The owners of this landfill have been trying to donate the property to the City of Fresno for more than 30 years, and the City has refused to accept it due to concerns about environmental liability. Here are the key points about Alternative 5b:
- Alternative 5b significantly disrupts Spano Park by building a road right through the center of it. Spano Park is the only City of Fresno park that directly overlooks the river.
- Alternative 5b requires the re-engineering of the bluff face to build a road down the bluff. The preliminary engineering cost estimate for this road is $5 million - and that doesn't include any land acquisition costs.
- Alternative 5b culminates in a parking lot on a former landfill that is privately owned. The owners of this landfill have offered to donate the site to the City of Fresno for approximately 30 years, but the City has refused to take it since it is a regulated landfill with associated environmental liabilities.
- Alternative 5b destroys approximately 20 mature Western Sycamore trees.
Click on the links below to read the River Parkway Trust’s email communication regarding the River West Fresno project.
August 13, 2020: A partial win on River West Fresno
August 10, 2020: More questions than answers
March 6, 2019: What Happened?
February 26, 2019: Will the Conservancy choose Fact or Fiction?
February 25, 2019: Action Alert: Raise your voice for access
February 19, 2019: Action Alert: Conservancy Board Meeting
January 9, 2019: Good News from the San Joaquin River Conservancy
January 7, 2019: Have they met the milestones?
January 4, 2019: Viable or Not?
December 3, 2018: Planning Commission Hearing on Fresno River West
December 14, 2017: We've Only Just Begun
December 12, 2017: A picture is worth a thousand words
December 8, 2017: This video summarizes what's at stake for River West
December 4, 2017: Will you join us on December 13th?
November 14, 2017: The Inconvenient Truth about Alternative 5b
November 13, 2017: Is Mayor Brand proposing a new FAX route to Fresno River West?
November 10, 2017: The Agenda for the Final EIR hearing was just released and it's a stunner
October 3, 2017: Last day to submit comments on the RDEIR
September 26, 2017: One week left to submit comments on the RDEIR
August 5, 2017: Route 5b cuts through the middle of Spano Park
June 13, 2017: How long has this been going on?
April 13, 2017: Route 5b: Fact or Fiction?
April 12, 2017: Only 4 days left to submit comments!
April 11, 2017: Only 5 days left to submit comments!
April 6, 2017: 9 days left to submit your comments!
March 18, 2017: Do you want access to more open space and trails?
March 16, 2017: River West Fresno Update - The Real Project Alternative 5
March 15, 2017: River West Fresno Update - Project Alternative 5
March 13, 2017: Unavoidable Environmental Justice Impact? We don't think so...
There have been a number of news articles about the River West Project over the past few years. Here are links to recent media coverage:
January 18, 2018, Fresno Bee: Next step for River West: Where does the money for upkeep come from?
December 10, 2017, Fresno Bee: River West Debate has waged long enough. Time for Board to decide, and us to accept
November 29, 2017, Fresno Bee: Candidate for governor supports public access to river via controversial route
November 21, 2017, Vida en el valle: Area’s diverse community lacks agency representation
November 16, 2017, Fresno Bee: Decision about public access to San Joaquin River delayed – again – at marathon meeting
November 15, 2017, ABC30: Contentious debate over public access to the San Joaquin River raged at Fresno City Hall
November 12, 2017, Fresno Bee: Deck is stacked against the public interest in crucial San Joaquin River vote
November 7, 2017, Vida en el valle: Access to River West Fresno project crucial for underserved communities
November 7, 2017, ABC30: River West project near Woodward Park delayed
June 1, 2017, Fresno Bee: Enough stalling. Now’s the time to improve recreation along San Joaquin River
To help you visualize the potential access to River West Fresno, we made some videos. Links are included below.
Proposed Project and Alternative 1 - Please note that you need to watch the entire video to see the Alternative 1 access point.
Additional Background Information
All of the planning and environmental review documents related to the River West Fresno Eaton Trail Extension Project can be found on the Conservancy website at http://sjrc.ca.gov/Eaton-Trail-Extension-EIR/