Reflection:Walk #33, Yr 2, Saturday, June 11, 2016, five FMWalkers began at Bluff Ave and Churchill, accessing the river through a small walking path entrance tucked into this neighborhood of large well-manicured homes. At 7:30 a.m. the morning was still cool and the sky beautiful blue painted with clouds. No walkers had been in the area, so this mindfulness walk was an adventure, since it was off the main streets and sidewalks, using dirt paths around ponding basins and along trampled grass paths to finally get to the river’s edge.
Sights: flora and fauna, re-planting re-vegetating with native plants, coyote bush, golf balls, slope, river, sky with clouds, trail, owl boxes, white trumpet flowers, cattails, fishermen, fish, big houses on ridge, black iron fence and gate, mountain bikes, people walking dogs, joggers, ponding basins, star thistle, stickers in shoes, wild tobacco, peach tree, trash, signs of encampment, hawk, egret, Valley Children’s Hospital in distance, freeway overpass of 41, swallow nests, Welcome to Fresno City sign, rabbits, beautiful landscaping, large front yard sculpture of ostrich. Two large homes on floodplain, edge of mobile home park under 41 freeway, cut through fence, limited parking near river access.
Sounds: birds, crunch under feet, geese, breeze in wheat and tall grass, flowing river, Hwy 41 freeway sounds, wild nature sounds and constant distant traffic, rustling in the grass and branches, water fountain in front yards,
smells: fresh air, clean, dusty, rich soil, bacon in neighborhood.
Feelings: lucky to have access to nature, love being in wild part of Fresno so close to urban, always a bit leary of unexpected animal or human, startled by rabbits or squirrels, dread at stickers in shoes and socks. Walkers commented that this serene wildlife and river are only 2 miles from Pinedale neighborhood and Riverpark shopping center. Within minutes, one can be in an urban/busy shopping center and then standing on the edge of the river. Walkers really enjoyed this walk and want to repeat it.
Walkers met a man riding his mountain bike along the dirt trail to the river. He says he rides this many times a week. He’s a veteran, and he loves this ride because he gets to be in nature while living in Fresno. He rides from Woodward Park, under Hwy 41, and all along the river back to Palm and Nees. He told us he rides along the dirt road by the mobile home park which is private property. But as long as you just walk or ride on by, they don’t seem to mind.
One walker knew that these neighbors are debating about how much access should be given to the public to get to the river through this neighborhood. Currently, there is no parking area for the public except along the neighborhood streets.
These are our brothers and sisters in Fresno. All of our lives and futures are tied together.
Separate discussion: Walkers discussed their dreams of a walking path right along the edge of the river, maybe all the way from Hwy 99 to Woodward Park and beyond. Other cities, like Sacramento and Austin TX have ‘river walks’ that are a main attraction and community gathering place. The SJ River is a major asset for Fresno, and it seems to be a hidden gem (missed opportunity) that there are only a few walking access points and most are still a ways away from the river’s edge. What if there were paved paths, benches, bicycle lanes, restrooms, parking? What about restaurants, cafes, or places for food trucks? Since the river goes under Hwy 99 just north of Herndon Ave exit, travelers could be enticed to stop, walk, shop, and eat along the river walk in Fresno. Is there a way to protect the natural habitat and still add walking/biking paths with parking/shopping/dining opportunities every few miles? While the price would be sizable, adding an outdoor amenity such as a 5 to 10 mile river walk would be a major attraction for Fresno, increasing the quality of life, attraction to businesses, millennials, and increased property values.
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