The start of a new decade is a great time to look back at what you’ve accomplished over the previous decade. Work on the San Joaquin River Parkway can feel glacial-paced at times, and it’s good to remind ourselves how far we’ve come over the last 10 years. Here are a few of the projects that have taken place along the Parkway since 2010:

Jensen River Ranch Phase 2 Habitat Enhancement Project: the 60 acres on the north side of the property were revegetated with native species, and a loop trail was constructed around the planting areas. Thousands of people now use this site every year for walking, jogging, and cycling.

Spano River Ranch Habitat Enhancement Project: This 50 acre project site surrounding a former mining pit is one of our most beautiful habitat enhancement projects to date, and will augment the future River West extension of the Lewis S. Eaton Trail. The project is designed to benefit riparian songbirds and other special status species along the San Joaquin River, including Swainson’s Hawk. A nesting pair of Swainson’s Hawk close to the project site proves that the project design is successful.

Sycamore Island Operations and Annual Fishing Derby: In 2012 the Trust successfully competed to become the new concessionaire for this important public access site in Madera County. We worked with colleagues in the San Joaquin River Partnership to host an annual fishing derby at Sycamore Island, and later expanded operations to include the Van Buren Unit. The Fresno EOC Local Conservation Corps found grant funding to build three large group picnic shelters at the site, providing construction project training for young adults.

Madera River West Berm Repair Project: a partnership between the San Joaquin River Conservancy, San Joaquin River Restoration Program, Department of Water Resources, and the River Parkway Trust resulted in the repair of a washed-out road between Sycamore Island and the Van Buren Unit, and the creation of floodplain habitat on the Fresno and Madera banks of the river. Today the floodplains are revegetated with Cottonwoods, Willows, and other native plants, and the road serves as a trail and allows for joint management of Sycamore Island and Van Buren.

Friant Interactive Nature Site (FINS) Small Fry Trail and Parkway Trail to Lost Lake: The San Joaquin River Conservancy provided funding for the creation of a child-friendly interpretive trail focused on the life cycle of a trout. The trail is located at the San Joaquin Fish Hatchery in Friant, and also includes a connection to the north end of Lost Lake Park.

River West Fresno Environmental Impact Report : It was controversial, it was lengthy, and it’s not quite over yet. But a discussion of this decade wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the planning and environmental review process for the next extension of the Lewis S. Eaton Trail. The Environmental Impact Report was certified by the San Joaquin River Conservancy, and there are now several access alternatives that can be selected and built in the years ahead. I’m grateful to all of you that wrote letters or came to a meeting during the process, and I’m confident that we’ll have a new trail to celebrate in less than a decade.

Reconstruction of the River Center Barn: After standing at Riverview Ranch for over 100 years, the River Center barn was not fit for re-use. Instead a generous donor and the Whitney Foundation provided for the reconstruction of the building in the same footprint, with a few modern additions such as lighting and restrooms. This unconditioned space has become an incredibly popular event venue, and often provides visitors with their “first contact” with the San Joaquin River Parkway. More importantly, the site serves as a covered space for educational games and hands-on activities during school field trips to the River Center.

Owl Hollow Improvements: After more than a decade of planning and permitting, Owl Hollow is finally becoming a more usable site for school field trips and our summer River Camp program. The addition of a vault restroom, picnic shelter, storage building, amphitheater, and grass play area provides a new venue for river-related fun. Plans for 2020 include a new leadership-focused River Camp program for middle school students that will take place at Owl Hollow.

I’m grateful to be part of the San Joaquin River Parkway effort – an effort to fundamentally improve quality of life in the San Joaquin Valley. But more than all of the projects, programs and varied Parkway accomplishments, I’m thankful for you. You are the reason that the Parkway matters, whether you participate in this work as a volunteer, donor, friend, or recreational user. Thank you for bringing the San Joaquin River Parkway to life, and Happy New Year.

Sharon Weaver
Executive Director