Opinion: 'Epic' Bicycle Trail Could Drive Growth
It’s easy to articulate what makes the Sacramento region a special place to call home. So much of what we enjoy relates to “place:” A confluence of rivers in a fertile valley flanked by a beautiful coastal range; the American River Parkway; and our urban forest that gives way through the foothills to the great conifer forests of the Tahoe Sierra and the alpine headwaters.
These natural assets define our region. They provide the unique context for the high quality of life we enjoy.
So it is not at all surprising that in a recent survey conducted by Valley Vision, “Regional Attitudes About Civic Amenities,” area residents said parks and trails were the most important civic amenity to influence their quality of life. Parks and trails were deemed most important by 54 percent of the respondents — six times greater than the next highest ranking. And across age, ethnic, income and educational demographics, respondents supported increased taxes to further enhance our region’s parks and trails.
Continuing to build on these amenities is a growth strategy for the post-Great Recession recovery we are experiencing. Our region lost roughly 150,000 jobs during those years. While we have recovered nearly twice as many, they are not the same high-paying jobs we once had. Investing in civic amenities like parks and connected trail systems is a win/win strategy for increasing regional economic prosperity by directly appealing to those who drive the 21st-century economy.
Millennials are the next generation’s economic powerhouse, driving the jobs of the future and representing a larger cohort than the baby boomers. They are transforming the way we live. They want a sense of place and community. They want mobility and easy access to recreation. If we are to compete for young, skillful talent or for businesses wishing to relocate, the Sacramento region must prioritize investment in the resources that already define this special place.
There are times when a convergence of circumstances presents itself and opens the door to opportunity. This is one of those times, and the opportunity is called the “Epic Trail.” Imagine 100 contiguous miles of Class 1 bike trail from Old Sacramento following the existing American River Bike Trail to Folsom, swinging south and then east along the Sacramento Placerville Transportation Corridor into the Motherlode, connecting to the completed El Dorado Trail from Missouri Flat Road on up into Placerville and beyond to Apple Hill in Camino.
If built, the Epic Trail stands to be the longest Class 1 bike trail in California and one of the top five trails in the nation. It would be a showcase of the region’s rich history and natural beauty. A trail like this would drive business and personal decisions on where to live, work, visit and relocate.
Through Valley Vision’s survey, we now know that local residents consider our region’s natural assets the most important factor to their quality of life. We also already have in place a 32-mile-long stretch along the American River Bike Trail, a 37-mile-long rail and trail corridor from Folsom to Placerville, and a trail corridor between downtown Sacramento and Davis. Let’s seize on this opportunity by connecting the trail system and capitalizing on the quintessential Sacramento experience that our wonderful parks and trails provide.
Charlie Downs is senior principal at Architectural Nexus, a Valley Vision board member and member of the El Dorado County Community and Economic Development Advisory Committee.
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