Chronological Highlights of the Emerging San Joaquin River Parkway 

1985

Pressure in the Fresno and Madera Area for building poorly planned subdivisions in the San Joaquin River’s floodplain begins to increase. The Fresno Bee breaks the news that several development plans threaten the river’s public resources.

1986

Concerned citizens form a grassroots group, the San Joaquin River Committee to protect the river. River and growth issues spark a public debate surrounding long-term planning and the concept of a San Joaquin River Parkway emerges.   

The City of Fresno, Fresno County, and Madera County collaborate and publish the San Joaquin River Reconnaissance Study which documents the many natural and cultural resources the river provides to the community.

The California Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife, chaired by Jim Costa, holds local public hearings that help shape future concepts for the river.

1987

Founders of the San Joaquin River Committee—Mary Savala, Clary Creager, and Peg Smith—attend a Land Trust Alliance Conference held at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove and become inspired to form a land trust to help establish the Parkway.

1988

From the organizing groundwork laid by the San Joaquin River Committee, our non-profit community based land trust, The San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust (River Parkway Trust) is formed with an original Board of Directors comprised of twelve community citizens with diverse backgrounds from Fresno and Madera Counties. The River Parkway Trust defines its goals of conservation, education, and recreation and launches two key projects:

a San Joaquin River Parkway Conceptual Planning Effort

a River Education Program with Fresno, Madera, and Clovis Unified School Districts

California voters approve Proposition 70, a landmark conservation bond measure that specifically earmarks $5 million for acquiring San Joaquin River Parkway lands.

1989

The San Joaquin River Ecological Reserve is established by the state legislature. The California Wildlife Conservation Board acquires the first unit, the 286 acre Milburn Unit, through a gift/purchase with landowner Don Underdown. The reserve is managed by the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The River Parkway Trust hold community meetings in Fresno and Madera during a year-long public planning effort and publishes The San Joaquin River Parkway and Environs Conceptual Plan. The plan gives form to the community's vision for the Parkway, a 30 plus mile linear greenway of natural reserves, parks, and open space between Millerton State Park and Highway 145.

1990

The Wildlife Conservation Board purchases its second property, 147 acres of critical wildlife habitat of the Ball Ranch to be managed as the Willow Unit by the Department of Fish and Game.

A special committee of The Fresno Chamber of Commerce completes their Parkway study and recommends community support.

1991

The San Joaquin River Parkway Task Force is formed and funded through state legislation (AB3121) authored by Assemblyman Jim Costa and begins its work to develop a specific plan.

The River Parkway Trust completes the Woodward Bluff Trails Master Design Plan, preparing for the first section of the multi-purpose trail (later renamed the Lewis S. Eaton Trail in 1993).

1992

The Task Force completes the San Joaquin River Parkway Plan which recommends the formation of a state conservancy to acquire, operate, and maintain the Parkway. Assemblyman Jim Costa authored legislation (AB2452), which was signed by Governor Wilson, authorizing the establishment of the San Joaquin River Conservancy, the fifth such conservancy to be established in California.

The Wildlife Conservation Board makes its third purchase, another 88 acre portion of the Ball Ranch and adds it to the Willow Unit within the Ecological Reserve.

The River Parkway Trust and City of Fresno receive state approval of a $98,500 matching grant for construction of the first mile of the Parkway's Lewis S. Eaton Trail.

1993

Local citizens raise matching funds for the first mile of the Lewis S. Eaton Trail, named in honor of a civic leader, founding director and early proponent of the Parkway.

The River Parkway Trust’s fifth anniversary marks passage of over 30,000 students through its River Education Program.

The River Parkway Trust and City of Fresno secure Intermodal Surface Transportation Enhancement Act (ISTEA) grants from the California Transportation Commission for construction of three more miles of the Lewis S. Eaton Trail.

1994

The San Joaquin River Conservancy holds its first meeting following ratification by the Madera Board of Supervisors, Fresno City Council, and Fresno Board of Supervisors. The Conservancy's area of interest is along a 22-mile section of the river from Millerton State Park to State Highway 99.

The River Parkway Trust receives $105,000 in funding from Fresno Metropolitan Projects Authority (Arts to Zoo) and a matching grant from California State Parks to build a one-mile section of the Lewis S. Eaton Trail along the northern boundary of Woodward Park.

Parkway projects win approval from California Transportation Commission for $4 million in funding from ISTEA. Of this, the River Parkway Trust and its joint venture partner, the Trust for Public Land, use $3.4 million to acquire 270 acres of Rank Island, a wildlife sanctuary added to the San Joaquin River Ecological Reserve. Reserve area now totals 800 acres with the remaining funds targeted for other land acquisition.

The J.M. Long Foundation (Long's Drug Stores) awards $25,000 to the River Parkway Trust and the organization begins its first San Joaquin River Habitat Restoration Project.

Dedication and opening of the first mile of the Lewis S. Eaton Trail--from the corner of Audubon and Friant Road along the perimeter of Woodward Park-- takes place.

The River Parkway Trust holds the first series of River Camp for Valley youth, running for two weeks at the Sportsman’s Club.

1995

Rank Island, the first land transaction is completed by the River Parkway Trust in partnership with The Trust for Public Land.  The 270-acre property dedication takes place in March and is presided over by State Senator Jim Costa and Douglas Wheeler, Secretary of California Resources Agency.

Kiwanis Camp Pashayan, a 31-acre property at Highway 99, acquired by the River Parkway Trust and the California Wildlife Conservation Board, is dedicated for public use.  

Public lands along the river now totals 1,606 acres - a 45% increase in 7 years.

1996

The first Parkway property in Madera County is purchased. The River Parkway Trust and its joint venture partner, the Trust for Public Land, acquire the Wildwood Property and convey it to the San Joaquin River Conservancy.

The Wildlife Conservation Board grants $100,500 to the River Parkway Trust for restoration of Camp Pashayan and the Willow Unit.

The second mile of the Lewis S. Eaton Trail is completed, including an equestrian trail.

Camp Pashayan is open to the public. Guided canoe trips and Camp Pashayan form the core of the River Parkway Trust's recreational program.

1997

The River Parkway Trust completes its first capital campaign raising over $400,000 in matching funds for five miles of trail construction.

Flood waters spike the highest flows since the building of Friant Dam, 59,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) in millions of dollars of property damage. The River Parkway Trust produces a documentary video. State and Federal agencies revisit flood mapping and flood plain policies.

1998

A new three-mile section of the Lewis S. Eaton Trail along the bluffs near Woodward Park is opened for use.

The River Parkway Trust and The Trust for Public Land acquires Jensen River Ranch and conveys the 167-acre property to the San Joaquin River Conservancy. Funding for the property comes from the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, the California Transportation Commission, and the Wildlife Conservation Board.

The River Parkway Trust receives a Great Valley Center LEGACI grant to define the economic benefit of the Parkway to the Fresno-Madera community and identify sources of funding for long-term stewardship of the Parkway.

The Fresno Chamber of Commerce releases results of a local voter opinion survey of 1200 people that reports more than 80% approval for preserving the San Joaquin River.

The River Parkway Trust signs agreement with the San Joaquin River Conservancy to begin a major restoration of the Jensen River Ranch and allow public access to the property with the design of the Tom MacMichael Loop Trail.

The River Parkway marks its 10-year anniversary and celebrates a decade of perpetual Parkway progress. Parkway lands now total more than 2,300 acres and five miles of the planned 22-mile trail system is complete.

The River Parkway Trust signs an agreement with Calmat (now Vulcan Materials) to acquire and restore the historic Riverview Ranch house and dairy barn as a river studies education center.

A $4 million land acquisition grant is received from the Packard Foundation for the acquisition of Spano River Ranch.

The California Wildlife Conservation Board approves a grant to the River Parkway Trust for restoration of river lands along Riverside Golf Course.

River Camp runs for an outstandingly successful five weeks.

1999

Restoration of the Riverview Ranch House begins with the collaborative efforts of East Fresno Rotary; the facility (renamed the Coke Hallowell Center for River Studies).

An interim loop trail on the 167-acre Jensen River Ranch is completed, giving the community another access-point to the San Joaquin River. A permanent loop trail will be constructed after restoration plans for the property are completed.

A report that chronicles the Economic Benefits of the San Joaquin River Parkway is published by CSUF Economics Professor Scott Hauser and former River Parkway Trust Land Stewardship Director Deborah North.

Title to the 35-acre Riverbottom Park (near Riverside Golf Course), is deeded to the City of Fresno. The river bottom land is added to the Parkway and becomes another public access point to the San Joaquin River.

The River Parkway Trust is awarded The Fresno Bee’s Excellence in Business Award for the Non-Profit category.

Two Conservation Easements are added to the San Joaquin River Parkway. One is a partnership with the American Farmland Trust to permanently protect 100-acres of pistachio trees of the Hansen Farm near the Milburn Ecological Reserve. The second is an easement on a 700-acre cattle ranch that was donated by the Hallowell family.

The River Parkway Trust secures funding from the California Wildlife Conservation Board to purchase 35 acres of river front habitat property from Elmer Hansen and the property is added to the San Joaquin River Ecological Reserve.

The San Joaquin River Parkway is given the Medallion Award by the Landscape Architect Society of America.

2000

The San Joaquin River Conservancy adds two new properties to the Parkway: the 358-acre Ball Ranch and 64-acre Wagner Property.

Scout Island is purchased by the Fresno County Office of Education for the purpose of creating a regional outdoor environmental education center.  

Parkway lands total nearly 2800 acres.

2001

A great year for land conservation!  The Conservancy adds 930 acres of land to the Parkway with the acquisition of Ledger Island, River Vista, Proctor-Broadwell-Cobb, Beck, and the Schneider property.

Ledger Island is 190 acres in Madera County adjacent to the Conservancy's Ball Ranch property.  It is located on a bend in the river and boasts more than a mile of river frontage, and a very impressive Valley Oak forest.

River Vista is 170 acres in Madera County, approximately 1/4 mile downstream of Friant Dam.

The Proctor-Broadwell-Cobb property (now part of Madera River West), is 203 acres and recently mined for sand and gravel.  It contains a number of open-water ponds and 3/4 mile of river frontage.  Wildlife species seen on the site regularly include mule deer, bobcat, mountain lion, and muskrat.

The Beck property is  279 acres adjacent to Lost Lake Park.  It is a former gravel mining site and is included in the Lost Lake Master Plan.

The Schneider Property is 87 acres in Madera County, across the river from the City of Fresno's Riverside Golf Course and the Riverside segment of the Lewis S. Eaton Trail.  It includes a series of small ponds and marsh areas that provide good habitat for waterfowl, Great Blue Herons, and Great Egrets.

2002

The River Parkway Trust secures funding from the California Wildlife Conservation Board to purchase 40 acres including a former home, which is added to the Willow Unit of the San Joaquin River Ecological Reserve.  The home is renamed Willow Lodge, and remodeled for use as a small-group educational facility.

2003

The River Parkway Trust and The Trust for Public Land secure funding from the Packard Foundation and the State of California to purchase the 560 acre Spano River Ranch.  Spano River Ranch is the single largest property acquisition for the Parkway to date.  The Spano family raised cattle and grew cotton on the ranch, and proposed residential and commercial development on the property in the mid-1980's.  When the development plan met with opposition, the Spano's turned to the River Parkway Trust.  Negotiations to purchase the site took seven years.  The site was identified in the San Joaquin River Parkway Master Plan as a location appropriate for public access and low-intensity uses such as walking, running, cycling, fishing, horseback riding, and birdwatching.  A flock of white pelicans visits the site regularly in the winter.

The River Parkway Trust completed a $3.5 million capital campaign and opened the Coke Hallowell Center for River Studies (River Center) an interpretive center dedicated to the natural and cultural history of the San Joaquin River and surrounding lands.

The aggregate annual revenue for “Parties for the Parkway” fundraising series topped more than $1,000,000. 

2004

The 1/4 mile extension of the Lewis S. Eaton Trail, from Old Friant Road to the River Center, is completed and opened to the public.

The first two phases of the Riverside Segment of the Lewis S. Eaton Trail are completed and opened to the public.

The River Parkway Trust begins planning for a major extension of the Lewis S. Eaton Trail from Woodward Park west of Freeway 41.  The River West Open Space Area Conceptual Plan is presented to the Conservancy's Board of Directors with a request to begin detailed planning and environmental review for the project.

2005

The River Parkway Trust and The Trust for Public Land secure funding from the San Joaquin River Conservancy to purchase the 347 acre Sycamore Island Ranch from Jim and Carrie Moen.    The property is adjacent to the Proctor-Broadwell-Cobb site, and together with Spano River Ranch, these three properties make up the River West Open Space Area, which is approximately 1,200 acres in size.  Sycamore Island is open to the public on weekends, and includes a number of fishing ponds created by previous sand & gravel mining.  Sycamore Island has riparian woodlands inhabited by mule deer, coyotes, waterfowl and other wildlife.

The River Parkway Trust secures funding from the San Joaquin River Conservancy to acquire the 174 acre Liddell Property, located in the river bottom between Milburn and Polk in Fresno.  The site currently includes a small driving range and golf course operation, and is adjacent to the Milburn Unit of the San Joaquin River Ecological Reserve.

2006

A landmark agreement is reached between water users, environmental groups, and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to restore salmon to a 130-mile section of the San Joaquin River (from Friant Dam to the confluence of the Merced River). 

The Caglia family donated 28-acres of river bottom land located on Rice Road to the River Parkway Trust. 

The River Parkway Trust received a grant from the Wildlife Conservation Board to make improvements to Willow Lodge, converting a former private residence to public space. 

The River Parkway Trust purchased Owl Hollow from Patt Rank.

The River Parkway Trust successfully negotiated a settlement with Central Green to protect the San Joaquin River and Parkway from adverse impacts of the development project.

“Take Me to the River” a portfolio of capital projects and fundraising effort was launched with a goal of $3,400,000 of private funds to leverage $10,200,000 in public funded projects. 

2007

An agricultural conservation easement transaction was completed on 216-acres of the Wattenbarger Farm in Madera County.  A grant of $599,022 from the Department of Conservation California Farmland Conservancy Program and a donation from the Wattenbarger family made the project possible.

Jensen River Ranch Habitat Enhancement Project and grant from the Resources Agency River Parkways Program of $807,000 approved and project begins.

2008

The River Parkway Trust’s headquarters building at the River Center is completed and opened for business in December.

2009

The Carriage House and the Smoke House at the River Center are restored.

The San Joaquin River Settlement Act is authorized by congress creating and funding the San Joaquin River Restoration Program.  Restoration test flows began.

The River Parkway Trust leads efforts to establish the San Joaquin River Partnership, a non-profit collaborative formed by formal charter, and the River Parkway Trust is selected as its fiscal agent.

2010

The Hidden Homes Trail was completed with a grant from First 5 of Fresno County, East Fresno Kiwanis, and the River Parkway Trust.  The project totaled approximately $200,000.   In conjunction with the trail project, the River Parkway Trust developed its pre-school program called River Buddies.

A grant enabled the River Parkway Trust to implement a creative summer program called the X-Stream Team, a crew of bi-lingual Asian and Latino youth that took the river message to users of Lost Lake Park and other locations via skits, nature hikes, and water safety lessons.    

The conceptual design for a trail bridge across the river, a key multipurpose trail connecting Fresno and Madera trail systems together, was completed and presented to the San Joaquin River Conservancy.   The project was made possible with a gift from Dr. Virginia Eaton.

2011

U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, visits the San Joaquin River.  The River Parkway Trust received the Department of Interior’s honorable designation as a Conservation Partner.

The Bureau of Reclamation awards a grant of $2 million to the River Parkway Trust for an expansive weed management project of the San Joaquin River Restoration Program.

The San Joaquin River is listed as a high priority project of the Department of Interior’s America’s Great Outdoors program.

Jensen River Ranch Habitat Enhancement Project Phase II and grant from the Conservancy/Wildlife Conservation Board of $563,970 is approved.

2012

Vulcan Materials Co. provides a license agreement to the River Parkway Trust for a nature trail to Owl Hollow and a cultural and natural history hiking tour is implemented.

The River Parkway Trust brings River Camp to Firebaugh with a very successful two-week pilot project.

A River Center Vision Plan is created to guide the River Parkway Trust’s development of land and programs over the next five years.

The San Joaquin River Restoration Program captured approximately 175 adult Chinook salmon at the Merced confluence and transported them to Camp Pashayan at Highway 99 where they were released and several are known to have spawned.

The River Parkway Trust accomplishes its long term goal for conveying Camp Pashayan to the San Joaquin River Conservancy.

Fresno County Superior Court Judge Rosendo Peña ruled in the River Parkway Trust’s favor concerning its challenge of the Friant Ranch project, determining that the project violated CEQA by not analyzing impacts to Lost Lake Park, Millerton State Park, and other nearby Parkway properties.

2013

The River Parkway Trust receives National Recognition and is accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. 

The River Parkway Trust gains approval from the San Joaquin River Conservancy to open and operate Sycamore Island, Ball Ranch, and Camp Pashayan for public use and river access.

 

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