Feature Photos

Neighbors oppose trail upgrade

By From page A1 | February 08, 2017

Residents oppose widening portions of New York Creek Trail. Courtesy photo

When neighbors backing up to sections of New York Creek Nature Preserve received a letter from the El Dorado Hills Community Services District on Jan. 18 stating that imminent work would begin between the end of January and early March, weather permitting, to widen portions of the dirt trail between Jackson Elementary and the CSD to 8 feet some said, “Not so fast.”

While some residents have called for more time and explanation, CSD staff reiterated that during the district’s master planning process last year many community members expressed interest in enhancing El Dorado Hills’ trails.

“The project will retain the trail’s natural surface and widen the trail to 8 feet where the topography and natural surroundings permit,” Director of Recreation Jill Ritzman explained. “For example, if the trail narrows between a large boulder and large tree, the tree and boulder would not be removed. The trail would either be re-routed or simply stay narrow between those resources.”

Parts of the trail are already 8 feet wide but to widen other areas to 8 feet, Ritzman said, vegetation would be removed mostly with hand tools. Limbs and brush would be trimmed from the trail sides and overhead.

For years, signs have been posted prohibiting bikes or motor vehicles on the trail and Fairchild Village resident Eric Hildebrandt said he wants it to stay that way. Many cyclists already use the trail and create many “near misses” with pedestrians and pets despite the rule now, he added. Hildebrandt has lived on Brackenwood Place for four years and said he purposely moved there from another El Dorado Hills neighborhood because of its natural beauty.

“It’s why people buy property there,” he told Village Life.

Within 24 hours of receiving the letter he created the group Friends of New York Creek. Hildebrandt said many of his neighbors have joined him in their concern to stop the trail work as they fear it will open the trail up for more as-of-now unauthorized bike use.

The main issue is whether the no bike designation would be upheld with the trail enhancements.

EDHCSD General Manager Kevin Loewen said the CSD Board of Directors would have to vote to change the bike designation at a later date.

“The natural trail portion of New York Creek trail is posted with a prohibition of bikes. Unfortunately, that rule is not entirely adhered to,” Loewen said. “Acknowledging that fact, our intent was to move forward with installation of interpretive signage and widen the trail to accommodate the defacto multi use. The matter of truly designating the trail as multi-use was not addressed yet. Therefore the signs with ‘no biking’ language on them would remain until the Board of Directors has an opportunity to make such a policy change.”

“Many residents believe the area should be kept as a nature trail for pedestrians and pets and that converting it to a bike trail will significantly destroy the natural beauty and serenity of the area,” Hildebrandt said. “We believe this will create a safety concern for pedestrians and that the money budgeted for the project would be better spent to improve biking opportunities elsewhere in El Dorado Hills.”

“The district would like to make the trail safer for all users by widening it,” Ritzman said, adding that the district plans to retain the current wooded characteristics of the trail. “In some areas it is narrow, has trip hazards, brush overhead and limited sight lines around tight turns. Only one small tree may be removed due to its proximity to the trail and its declining health. No other trees or shrubs will be removed and the natural scenery of the riparian corridor will be protected.”

The project has been approved by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and El Dorado County and in June 2016 the CSD Board of Directors approved a funding allocation of $200,000 for “New York Creek Trail Multi-Use & Improvements” for fiscal year 2016-17.

CSD staff has agreed to delay the work until after they hear public comments at the monthly CSD Board of Directors meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9. Staff also announced they will host a trail walk at 4 p.m. this Wednesday, Feb. 8, for interested residents.

Making the trail wider in some places is only a part of the overall project.

“New interpretive and information signs are also part of it,” Ritzman said. “In 2015 Oak Ridge High School students created artwork depicting interpretive signs and messages about the natural and cultural resources on the trail. The art work is being used by the American River Conservancy to create 10 new interpretive signs to be placed along the trail. A wider trail will allow for trail users to stop and read the signs without impeding other trail users.”

Ritzman also said the original project funding request included anticipated costs related to storm water pollution prevention and drainage corrections. “Since then, district staff has confirmed that the work could be limited in such a way to eliminate the need for drainage corrections and storm water pollution prevention measures,” she added.

Hildebrandt says he doesn’t want the enhancements and thinks the plan would mean a lose-lose for the nature preserve either way. “If they do clear an 8-foot path by clearing vegetation it will destroy the natural beauty,” he said.  “If they don’t widen it 8 feet in every part it will still be bringing in cyclists and the near misses between pedestrians and bikers will even get worse.”

Hildebrandt said he is also concerned that open access will bring crime and vandalism. “Say no to bikes and then let’s talk about trail improvements,” he added. “Instead of enforcing the ‘no bike’ rule they’re making it multi-use or bending so that cyclists can use it. It’s the only place in El Dorado Hills that I know of just for pedestrians and pets. To me it’s like rezoning.”

He said he’d like to see more time to get public feedback before the CSD begins the work. He also said he’d like to see the trail spruced up by clearing out downed trees and debris, but to stop short of widening it.

For more information meet at the CSD Parks Office at 1030 St. Andrew’s Drive at 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 8, where staff will be available to answer questions and describe the project and, weather permitting, hit the trail. Attend the CSD board meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9, in the Norm Rowett Pavilion on Harvard Way.

Julie Samrick

Discussion | 15 comments

  • Jeff BarkerFebruary 07, 2017 - 9:04 pm

    It is mind boggling that this has become controversial! It like a solution looking for a problem! The trail has been safely shared by kids going to school, walkers, dog walkers, runners and mountain bikers for at least the past 15+ years. This includes many THOUSANDS upon THOUSANDS of interactions between cyclists and non-cyclists. I've ridden and run on it well over 200 times since 1999 with not even a hint of animosity from anyone else... and I just learned last week that bicycles aren't officially allowed. What?!? After all these years of 99.99999% peaceful shared use, the trail is de facto bicycle legal and the signs should be changed to nip this unnecessary controversy in the bud. Let's open up sight lines and work on trail user education and move on. The fact that this cancerous anti-bike issue has come to El Dorado Hills saddens me tremendously. I experienced the kind of anti-bike activism Mr. Hildebrandt is spinning when I lived in the Bay Area in the 90's and it is essentially baseless fear mongering. I truly hope our community can ease his (and others') fears at the meetings this week.

  • Jeff BarkerFebruary 07, 2017 - 9:25 pm

    P.S. Julie - If you did a little more research, possibly browsing the various Next Door threads (Fairchild Village, Willowdale...) and talking to other trail users, you'd learn that most people (including neighbors) support this trail remaining multi-use. The headline for this article is awfully misleading and inaccurate. "4 Year Resident Opposes Bikes On Trail, Citing NIMBYism" would have been accurate. ;-)

  • Mark MayfieldFebruary 07, 2017 - 9:44 pm

    Kids ride their bikes to school on this trail - it's safer than the streets. Locals ride for exercise. Everybody seems to get along and says "hi" with rare exceptions. I jog or ride on this path nearly once a week. I've never had a problem and I've never considered complaining about others using the path. Unbelievable. Loose dogs and folks distracted by earbuds or smartphones while jogging or walking (instead of paying attention) are bigger problems than cyclists.

  • Rob KramerFebruary 07, 2017 - 10:02 pm

    I agree with Jeff. The author of this article does not seem to have done her homework, and appears to be taking the voice of one as the voice of many. I have been on this trail countless times over the last 10 years, and have never seen any trail conflicts, nor issues with bicyclists. Also, I see no need to make this trail 8 ft wide - if there is one thing I agree with Mr. Hildebrandt, it is that such a change would negatively change the character of this trail. Let's use the $200,000 for far better purposes, such as building new trails. I for one would be happy to volunteer hours for improving any dangerous sight lines along this trail.

  • Scott BlevinsFebruary 07, 2017 - 10:09 pm

    Eric does not represent the neighborhood, he represents his interests and found a few like minded people so he can grand stand on little information. Kids bike to Jackson and Oak Ridge and if this route is closed to them, they have to dodge traffic and traverse intersections. What information do you have on these supposed near misses, that Eric claims are "many"? We've been walking and biking these trails for years and have never had any issue (aside from dogs off leave and messes left behind). If we want to start banning things, let's talk about the environmental impact of pets on the local wildlife? If they come for the bikes, Eric will cheer but when they ban his precious dog the rest of us will watch and remember that this is what happens when you can't share and need others to regulate.

  • Jeff BarkerFebruary 07, 2017 - 11:14 pm

    I spoke with a 13 year veteran of the EDH Fire Department who can't recall any trauma calls for bike vs. pedestrian incidents on the trail, but he has responded to several awful car vs. bike calls on local roads. So is this trail issue about safety or selfishness?

  • Jeff BarkerFebruary 08, 2017 - 11:57 am

    Regarding Mr. Hildebrandt's claim that a bike legal trail will lead to crime and vandalism, that is complete baloney and bonafide fear mongering. The assertion that trails increase crime is inaccurate, there are many studies that demonstrate the exact opposite, here is an excerpt from a study: ~A study at Bush Creek trail, Santa Rosa, California to determine the impact of a bicycle/pedestrian trail on property values and crime surveyed 75 property owners, as well as apartment and mobile home park managers near the trail, real estate agents, and law enforcement agencies. Fifteen other cities were contacted for information on surveys regarding the effect of trails on property values and crime* . The study shows neither increased crime nor decreased property values due to trails. The overwhelming opinion was that the trail had a positive effect on the quality of life of the neighborhood. Sixty one percent of real estate agents said they use proximity to trails as selling points. The survey of cities showed only a small number of minor infractions such as illegal motorized vehicles, litter, and unleashed pets. 33% of residents said the trail would make their homes easier to sell, with 48% saying no effect. 23% said the trail would make their home sell for more, with 69% saying “no effect”. Link to the study: https://www.railstotrails.org/resourcehandler.ashx?id=4482 Can Mr. Hildebrandt present factual data that supports his concerns?

  • Steve JohnsonFebruary 08, 2017 - 12:35 pm

    This is another example of one resident putting his needs ahead of others. Taking away access to our kids riding their bikes to school is inexcusable. What about dog waste fouling our waterways and attacking joggers. Why not put an age limit on the trail so unruly children don't make too much noise while they are having fun. Let's keep immigrants off the trail. Of course I'm being ridiculous just like Mr Hildebrandt is. Let's leave the trail open to all users just like it has been long before Mr Hildebrandt moved into the neighborhood. It is my understanding that all the CSD is doing is removing brush where they can to make the trail sightlines better and I'm fine with that. Some share the trail signage is all that is needed. We already have a beautiful paved bike trail coming in off of Silva intersecting with the trail so it seems pretty counter intuitive to not allow bikes on the New York Creek trail. We need to increase access to all and build more trails for all.

  • Eric HildebrandtFebruary 10, 2017 - 4:20 pm

    Actually, the concern in the whole community on this was so great even before last nights CSD meeting, CSD pulled the plug on this. CSD apologized for the way this was handled. CSD announced it will go back and review the whole issue in an extensive stakeholder process. Keep up the great reporting!

  • Jeff BarkerFebruary 10, 2017 - 10:04 pm

    Fake news! Kevin, the GM of CSD, said twice in 2 days they were "pumping the brakes", given the noise the community has made. "Pulling the plug" insinuates they are cancelling the project, which is not truthful. Let's work together! This trail has been shared safely for 20+ years and will continue to do so. Instead of spending your time and energy on becoming one of the most unpopular people in town by leading a campaign to prohibit historical users of the trail, why not spend that time and energy on helping educate all trail users on best practice trail use? (e.g., Leave no trace, IMBA rules of the trail, dog control and waste clean-up, etc.) It is a far better solution than pushing for an arbitrary ban that will not be enforced and will only lead to social conflict that didn't exist before this whole kerfuffle.

  • Eric HildebarndtFebruary 12, 2017 - 9:15 am

    CSD is trying to increase pedestrian use of the area outdoor education. The area contains rare riparian habitat and Native American grinding rocks. The trail follows and old Native American path and is narrow, has lots of twists and turns, vegetation and “blind corners”. To accommodate mountain bikes and this pedestrian traffic, CSD says it needs to “ improve” the trail by widening it where it can, diverting the trail in some places, and "improving site lines" and eliminating "blind corners" by cutting down vegetation. Many feel this would destroy what makes the trail so rare and valuable for pedestrians and outdoor education. Every other trail in EDH is open to bikes. Many residents joined me in calling on CSD to implement a simple, low cost solution to this by posting more visible “no biking” signs, since biking has been prohibited by under CSD rules since the nature area was formed over 20 years ago.

  • Steve JohnsonFebruary 10, 2017 - 9:44 pm

    Great - then everybody including cyclists will have access to the trail just like they always have!

  • yvonne morrisFebruary 14, 2017 - 12:47 pm

    I've seen many local kids using this trail for their bikes. They've always been nice and courteous. Have never seen anyone misusing this trail by riding too fast. Virtually all the people I have met, whether running, walking dogs or bike riding have been friendly. I've been riding and taking my kids on this trail for many years. It seems like this Eric guy has pulled this "near miss" drama out of the dark side in an effort to try and prevent a certain group of people from using the trail. I'm not necessarily interested in seeing the trail made wider either, but excluding bike riders, by the way I have NEVER seen any "no bikes" signs in all my years using the trail, would just be wrong.

  • James ScottFebruary 14, 2017 - 9:22 pm

    This article was the first I'd heard about this and it boggled my mind that there was actually a group created just to keep bike riders from using the trail. The safety concerns and desire to maintain the natural look of the trail seem like issues they just rolled into this to hide the core goal of eliminating bike riders from the trail because they knew just coming out and saying, "We want to keep bikes off the trail" wouldn't be well received. You can't just make up a group, slap a socially acceptable name on it, and try to take over the CSD's plans at the last second because they don't work for you. Plus, it doesn't make sense that bikes are being targeted because you can keep the trail safe and maintain the natural look without excluding bikes. We have such a great close knit community but creating a group just to exclude people from a community trail eats away at that and will impact all the kids who use the trail more than anyone else.

  • Larry OreskesFebruary 22, 2017 - 10:18 am

    As someone who lives right on the trail I see kids daily using it to ride their bikes to school, sports practices, etc. When they are forced to ride their bikes on EDH Blvd and Silva Valley how many "near misses" will it take with cars going 50mph Mr Hildebrandt before you realize how silly this is??? Keeping kids off a dirt path?? Seriously??



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