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  • Mark Joseph

Open Space & Trails

As City Manager, I played a key role in securing the two large open space areas that help to define who we are as a community and our focus on the outdoors. I thought it might be nice to go into more detail about that history and my position on Open Space & Trails.


In the late 1990's our Public Works Director at the time, John Wankum, wrote a grant for $1.5 million. We used that to purchase over 400 acres of wetlands off our western boundary. This was done as part of the construction of our Wastewater Treatment Plant (we planned on discharging our treated water through these wetlands; it would be easier to do if we owned the land).

John secured another $1.5 million grant to restore the land as well as to pay for baseline studies and other reports, all associated with the plant.

There were two side benefits from this land purchase. First, we were able to carve out about 30 acres for a future Clark Ranch. And second, this purchased triggered a series of events that provides public access to some of the most beautiful open spaces in the region--and perhaps the most popular! Additional land related to the Wastewater Treatment Plant itself was added to the trail mix. Even the old Landfill was turned into Mike's Hike & Bike Trail, thanks to the help from our Congressman Mike Thompson.

It's been 10 years since the area was officially opened. Here's the link to the celebration by the City and the Parks Foundation. There's still work to be done; for example, the City just received $450,000 in grant funds to improve safety in the area, explore the feasibility of a kayak launch and study the reuse of the Corp Yard at the end of American Canyon Road.


The second area is the Jack & Bernice Newell Open Space Preserve. This is a 605 acre site east of town, and it connects with the Lynch Canyon Open Space Preserve that exits by Interstate 80. Newell is more challenging to hike because of the terrain, but it is by far more serene and has incredible views.

At one point in time the site was going to be a solid waste dump site--that deal fell through and the owners--Jack & Bernice Newell--donated it to the City. The Land Trust of Napa County worked with the City and the Newells to work out the details of the transaction.

As can be seen from the photos, both areas were dedicated to the City in 2000. At the time, Open Space was not as welcomed and appreciated as it is now--but we were able to accomplish both acquisitions without the use of any local taxpayer dollars. And today, these two areas are the foundation for an open space strategy that offers value to both our residents and visitors to the area. And because they are publicly owned, these beautiful areas will be open for all and forever.


A discussion about Open Space isn't complete unless we talk about trails. I have been a strong proponent of the Bay Trail, the Vine Trail and even the Ridge Trail--all of which pass through American Canyon.

The Napa Valley Vine Trail will connect Vallejo to the South and Calistoga to the North in a 47 mile long Class 1 bike/pedestrian path. It travels through each town or City, creating a parallel trail to Highway 29. Smaller trails and pathways can be linked to each jurisdiction. Locals and visitors alike can enjoy the trail, and it could become the means of commuting to and from work, using a motorized bicycle (unless you're in incredible shape and want to manually cycle to and fro!)

I served on the Board of Directors for the Vine Trail and have consistently supported its completion--most recently, sending a letter to the Board of Supervisors, encouraging them to apply for a $10 million grant to build the next segment (St. Helena to Yountville). Here at home, our portion of the Vine Trail will be built primarily as a result of developing Watson Ranch.

The Bay Trail is more recreational and it follows the outline of the San Francisco Bay.

Here in American Canyon, much of the Trail exists, but there are two serious gaps.

The first is at our southern edge. We are studying a connection that would build the trail in the Wetlands; an alternate route would use a series of existing trails to bring you into Kimberly Park, and from there, connect to the Bay Trail heading into Vallejo. I support this latter approach, both due to the lower cost and because it will minimize the impacts to the neighbors on Kimberly Court.

The second gap is just north of us, near the County Airport. There is about a 700' gap between the end of our portion of the trail and public space by Napa Sanitation District. The land is owned by State Fish & Game, and they have not been inclined to grant public access. This fight has gone on for years.

It's not enough to support this access point; we are going to have to partner with both the County and the City of Napa to persuade this State Agency to reconsider. As Mayor, I would work with both jurisdictions on a joint Resolution, urging the State to grant a trail easement. Armed with this resolution, our State Legislators will be in a better position to help us across the finish line, and connect the two largest cities in the County.



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