Local impacts on river restoration unclear
by Jonathan Partridge | Patterson Irrigator
Sep 20, 2012 | 2128 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Chuck Crawford of Ceres gets ready to throw a fish back  into the San Joaquin River at Laird County Park near Grayson while fishing on Tuesday, May 15, 2012. A state effort to restore the San Joaquin River will mean 11,000 new jobs, including some in Patterson. 
Lisa James / Patterson Irrigator
Chuck Crawford of Ceres gets ready to throw a fish back into the San Joaquin River at Laird County Park near Grayson while fishing on Tuesday, May 15, 2012. A state effort to restore the San Joaquin River will mean 11,000 new jobs, including some in Patterson. Lisa James / Patterson Irrigator
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A grill in the picnic area of the Las Palmas fishing access site overflows with garbage on Tuesday, September 11.
A state effort to restore the San Joaquin River will benefit areas such as the Las Palmas site with cleanup and increased fish populations. 
Lisa James / Patterson Irrigator
A grill in the picnic area of the Las Palmas fishing access site overflows with garbage on Tuesday, September 11. A state effort to restore the San Joaquin River will benefit areas such as the Las Palmas site with cleanup and increased fish populations. Lisa James / Patterson Irrigator
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Weeds and bushes engulf picnic tables at the Las Palmas fishing access site making them unusable.
Lisa James / Patterson Irrigator
Weeds and bushes engulf picnic tables at the Las Palmas fishing access site making them unusable. Lisa James / Patterson Irrigator
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Weeds and tree branches encroach upon benches at the Las Palmas fishing access site, blocking the view of the San Joaquin River.
Lisa James / Patterson Irrigator
Weeds and tree branches encroach upon benches at the Las Palmas fishing access site, blocking the view of the San Joaquin River. Lisa James / Patterson Irrigator
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While a recent study by UC Merced professor Shawn Kantor mentions recreation benefits within the scope of the 153-mile San Joaquin River Restoration project area, the impact on recreation along the river in Stanislaus County remains unknown.

Much of the riverfront on the West Side has seen better days and would need improvements before it could attract tourists.

Kantor noted last week that he was not a biologist but said he expected Patterson to experience the benefit of improved water quality as a result of the restoration of the San Joaquin River farther south.

Portions of the river are already used by Stanislaus County West Siders on a regular basis, but some riparian recreation areas have fallen into disrepair within the past year as county leaders cut back on expenses.

Last year, county supervisors voted to stop maintaining the Las Palmas Fishing Access east of Patterson and Laird Park near Grayson in separate efforts to balance the county budget.

The Patterson fishing access area has become filled with litter since that time, and overgrown weeds stand in front of one of the park benches, blocking the view of the waterway. The bathrooms remain locked.

Jami Aggers, the interim director of the county’s parks and recreation department, said the fishing access area is on hiatus until the county can find the money to reopen it.

Laird Park, along the San Joaquin River east of Grayson, fell into a similar state but has benefited from the attention of donors and contractors led by West Side farmer Jon Maring.

Companies and individuals voluntarily trimmed shrubs and pruned mulberry trees, cut down eucalyptus trees that were in danger of falling, planted grass and installed new irrigation systems.

If all goes as planned, Maring said this week, newly planted grass at Laird Park should be fully sprouted by the spring.

Meanwhile, the San Joaquin National Wildlife Refuge in Vernalis has attracted more tourists since a 3.8-mile nature trail opened there in March 2011, according to Kim Forrest, project leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Discussing restoration efforts there last month, she noted that bird watchers are particularly attracted to the area.

“I think maybe we get 7,000 people a year,” Forrest said.

The refuge, off Dairy Road about 12 miles north of Patterson, is home to birds that are rare in the Central Valley, such as the least Bell’s vireo . It has housed restoration efforts for the endangered riparian brush rabbit. The refuge is open from sunrise to sunset daily.

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