West Side must seize river-related opportunity
Dec 13, 2012 | 1502 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
While plans to restore the San Joaquin River may create water challenges for farmers to the south, local residents could have much to gain.

A recent study by Shawn Kantor, a professor at University of California, Merced, predicts that more than 11,000 jobs will result from the restoration. West Side residents need to think seriously about how to get a share of 475 anticipated permanent jobs stemming from related recreation opportunities.

In that vein, it was wonderful to hear local residents, consultants and public officials share ideas at a forum at Newman’s West Side Theatre on Thursday, Dec. 6, about how to capitalize on restoration efforts.

An overarching theme was the sentiment that northern San Joaquin Valley communities must do better at promoting the natural beauty that exists here.

Public officials, business advocates and local residents in general should think seriously in the coming months about how to capitalize on the jewel we have in our backyard.

Some of that planning is already happening. It’s encouraging, for instance, that the city’s draft Parks and Recreation Master Plan includes ideas for the San Joaquin River, proposing a riverfront park that the city and county could create together.

The master plan shows how the city can take full advantage of the area’s natural amenities by connecting that park with a trail or bicycle path that would extend to another proposed park at the base of Del Puerto Canyon.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Department also deserves praise for hosting city-sponsored kayaking activities on the San Joaquin River. Such activities foster appreciation among local residents for this natural amenity.

But organizers must do a better job of publicizing a forthcoming summit on economic opportunities related to the river’s restoration.

Most local residents learned about Thursday’s conference only after Mayor Luis Molina mentioned it during the City Council meeting — just two days before the conference.

Even so, it was encouraging to see the handful of Patterson residents who were able to attend on short notice.

We live in a beautiful area with amazing natural resources, and we have much to celebrate.

In the words of the mayor: “We should not only be talking about what’s wrong with us, and what do we need, but also what’s right with us and what do we have.”

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