Fresno County planning commissioners voted in favor of a 58-acre river access park proposed along the Kings River despite opposition from nearby residents.
Commissioners approved the park Thursday in a 6-0 vote.
The park, planned by the city of Sanger, will include a 35-space parking lot, non-motorized boat ramp, a bathrooms building, picnic tables, a kiosk, fencing and a gated access road from Channel Road to the Kings River, north of Goodfellow Road.
The city owns the land and will work with the Kings River Conservancy on some maintenance. The project is funded with a $425,000 grant from the state, said John Mulligan, the city’s public works director. The land is owned by the city, which wants to use the property for a future regional park.
For this project, less than 2 acres will be developed, nearly all of which will be fenced off. The portion developed is in the northeast area of the acreage.
“It will allow access for the community to get to the river,” Mulligan said. “The fencing will not allow free access to the rest of the property.”
I’m not against it being built, but I don’t think they are maintaining what they’ve got.
Herb Lang, resident opposing park near Kings River
The city’s proposal noted that the site is already used for fishing and recreation by those who enter without permission. The city projects the number of daily visitors to be 50 to 100 during the peak season and lower during the rest of the year.
Most of the surrounding property is in agriculture or large-lot home sites. The closest home is 160 feet from the park’s property line.
The city will maintain the property, but Kings River Conservancy will assist by pumping the bathrooms twice a year and possibly provide other maintenance.
One neighbor told planning commissioners that he’s worried about the potential for graffiti, fire hazards and increased trash. Another neighbor wrote to commissioners opposing the plan, too.
Herb Lang, who lives near the site, criticized the Kings River Conservancy for improper maintenance of parks it oversees now. He showed commissioners photographs of trash, high weeds, graffiti and messy bathrooms on other sites, Thorburn Access Park at Highway 180 and Rio Vista and North Riverside, near Pine Flat Dam.
“I’m not against it being built, but I don’t think they are maintaining what they’ve got,” Lang said.
Mulligan said Sanger city employees will do most maintenance projects at the park.
The park will be locked up at night, he said, and the hours will likely be dawn to dusk.
“Mr. Lang made some good points. … I will assure you, this is a city park and it will not be left to Kings River Conservancy to maintain it solely,” Mulligan said. “The City Council and city manager won’t find those conditions acceptable.”
Trash and graffiti are a problem, but someone cleans the park sites each week, said Jim Van Haun, executive director of the Kings River Conservancy.
He conceded that the North Riverside park in the past week became messy again after a cleanup over the weekend. He said it’s a high-use time of year.
I don’t think it’s this commission’s place to be denying this or considering this on some kind of maintenance problem.
Ross Borba, Fresno County planning commissioner
“Those restrooms were cleaned on Saturday, and we clean them every single week, and the restroom was pumped last Friday,” he said. “Between Saturday and (Wednesday) it will sometimes happen. We do go out there every single week, and I can assure you last Saturday it looked perfect.”
The gate to Thorburn Access Park has been locked since early June at the request of the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office because of a large, dangerous tree. The park was filled with weeds, and Van Haun said they will be trimmed when the park reopens.
Commissioner Ross Borba said maintenance agreements aren’t a condition of the commission’s approval.
“I don’t think it’s this commission’s place to be denying this or considering this on some kind of maintenance problem,” he said. “It’s just a little upsetting to see the pictures that we saw.”
Lang said he will consider appealing the commission’s action to Fresno County supervisors.
Park construction could begin by late 2017, Mulligan said.