Following our instincts to wander into the San Benito River environment, an R.E.A.C.H. contingent including Dave Pollard, Jim Ostdick, Robin Pollard, Don Pidd, and myself walked into the river bed with the permission of Jim West, Granite Rock properties advisor to R.E.A.C.H. We took a well-established trail behind the San Benito County High School and walked altogether a couple of miles. There was evidence of horse trails, bike tracks and a wide range of walking paths, and they all seemed to have been respectful of the terrain and environment. As often sited in reasoning for opening pathways to the public, the well-used areas had less litter, but off the banks dumping was evident. We bagged up small items and hauled it back with us.
The area we walked was within what will be the first ‘Reach’, or section, to be developed as the River Parkway. The preliminary E.I.R. has been completed, while easements are being negotiated and properties purchased toward the dream of public use. It is evident that for many years the river bed has been enjoyed for recreation without the legitimate label we will soon be able to give it. One would think that the public owns the riverbed, just as legislation has given us public access on the coastal beaches. This however is not the case. Property owners on each side of the river own to the center of the river, but who goes in to maintain the banks or overflow in times of flood? Certainly R.E.A.C.H. does not advocate illegal entry into private properties within the river, but hopefully segments will be negotiated, donated or purchased for public use that could link our high schools. I can imagine hearing, “Cross country record set today through the River Parkway between Anzar High School and SBC High School track teams!”, linking our communities!
As the Parkway, and bicycle paths and walking trails develop, linking the parks and winding through our hills, past wineries and through towns, this area will become a magnet for healthy lifestyle tourism. Tourists fill hotel rooms and restaurants, patronize merchants, and then go home, leaving all these assets for us to enjoy! Supporting this concept, last night at the SBC Planning Commission meeting Planner Brent Barnes presented Resolution No. 2015-07, recommending that the Board of Supervisors adopt the General Plan Complete Streets Policy, county-wide in the unincorporated areas of the County! The Planning Commission unanimously recommended that it be on the BOS agenda for consideration and approval on November 3. R.E.A.C.H. will be at the BOS meeting to support, for sure!