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River Trail Project Runs Into Barrier
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A local councilman’s hard fought goal of a river trail from the east to the west side of Oakdale possibly came to a halt when an expected property owner pulled support of an easement that would have allowed trail access from Valley View Park to Kerr Park.

“As far as next to the river where we’re farming the answer is ‘no’”, said Ernest Waggoner, whose Irwin Court riverbank property was expected to be used. “I want to avoid problems and hassles from complaints about spraying too.”

Waggoner said even now he’s received condemnations from those parking near his walnut orchards by the river who’ve been upset about perceived overspray on vehicles.

Oakdale City Councilman Mike Brennan has been instrumental in the city pursuing grant money and an outspoken proponent for the trail, pushing forward a measure for the city to pursue a $33,000 matching fund grant at the Dec. 17 council meeting that brought on dissenting opinions by other council members.

“We have to deal with the hand we got dealt now,” said Brennan of the set back. “We will have to move forward still and when it gets to that point in the future, maybe things will have changed.”

Brennan said he believed Waggoner’s family members may have influenced the new decision, which had previously been in support of the easement.

“I respect their opinion,” said Mayor Pat Paul of Waggoner’s decision. “This is going to be years from now. I just want to get something moving, even if in increments.”

When the matter of pursuing the grant at the December council meeting was discussed, some citizens and council members took an opposing position to the river trail due to the unexpected costs to the city.

Councilman Tom Dunlop, who had mixed opinions at the December meeting, said he was not surprised and didn’t think the Waggoner family would go for the easement.

“There’s a series of formidable obstacles to get a river trail,” said Dunlop. “The trail has been in the general plan and there’s been talk of it for many years.”

“I believe we should have seen if the Waggoners were in agreement before we wasted council and staff time,” added Councilman Farrell Jackson. “Anytime staff is involved, it costs us money.”

Jackson, who was the city’s mayor from 2006 to 2010, believes if the city wants to pursue a river trail, it should use the specific plan process and have proposed developers purchase the land for the specific use.

“In this scenario, it was a matter of the property owner being willing,” Jackson said of the recent proposal that he voted against. “Without them there’s no matter of pursuing it now.”

Paul felt that despite the setback, the city would still pursue the grant.

In November 2012, the California Natural Resources Agency announced that the City of Oakdale would receive an $862,625 grant to convert more than 15 acres into a river parkway including a 750-foot trail allowing public access to the Stanislaus River from Valley View Park.