South Sacramento residents can now enjoy the Sacramento River by bike again as the Freeport Regional Water Authority reopened a section of the Pocket Area Bike Trail Friday. Four years of construction on the Freeport Water Intake Facility kept it closed to the public.
The Pocket Area trail stretches along two miles of the Sacramento River from Garcia Bend Park on Pocket Road around the Freeport Bend—a bend which makes the river run parallel to Freeport Boulevard—and ends at the Freeport Water Intake Facility.
Councilman Darrell Fong of District 7 attended the reopening ceremony Friday morning along with 20 members of the Pocket community and unveiled the newly installed public amenities to the trail, including a plaza with benches, fountains and art installations at the back of the Freeport Water Intake Facility. The plaza overlooks an astonishing view of the river at the Freeport Bend.
In 2007, Construction of the Freeport Water Intake Facility, located at 7760 Freeport Blvd., closed off the last 400 feet of the trail refusing access for bikers and pedestrians to Freeport Boulevard or parts of the Sacramento River.
“The purpose of the water intake facility is to provide surface water from the Sacramento River to customers in Sacramento County and the East Bay,” said Cecilia Curry, public outreach director for the Freeport Regional Water Authority.
The facility will pump up to 185 million gallons of water each day–85 million gallons will go to Sacramento Residents and 100 million gallons will go to the East Bay Municipal Utilities District, which will use it as a drought water supply in three out of every ten years.
Project administrators hired Paul Kos, a regional artist from San Francisco, to design the “river wall”—a relief sculpture on the side of the Intake Structure at the new facility—which incorporates poetry and prose regarding water and the river itself into the wall facing the trail.
The poetry is accompanied by the word “river” spelled in waves which appear to flow frontwards and backwards—inspired by the Sacramento river which, in fact, flows in two directions depending on the tide. The artwork is completed by a charming circular pattern embedded into the path with colored cement and crushed glass, illustrating a ripple effect.
The paved path stops at the new plaza which was built behind the facility for bikers and pedestrians to enjoy, though some still choose to continue along a dirt path parallel to a set of train tracks leading south from the facility.
The dirt path leads to several outlets along the Sacramento river and Freeport Boulevard, however, residents are advised not to continue past the paved portion.
“We are not encouraging anybody to go beyond the paved structure,” said Ed Cox, bike and pedestrian coordinator for the Department of Transportation.
The last 50 yards which lead to Freeport Boulevard remain unpaved due to a hold on the Freeport Shores Bikeway project. The project was initiated in the year 2000 but is now pending negotiations with the State Parks that own the property.
The project would pick up where the pavement stops, wrap around the intake facility to the service road, and lead to the driveway by the large water tank where it would lead out to the boulevard. The completed project would lead from that access point 0.2 miles down the road to the soccer field at 7895 Freeport Boulevard.
The finished project would “provide access from the Pocket to the Bill Conlin Youth Sports Complex,” said Cox. “Kids will be able to ride from their homes to this field,” he said.
There are no signs currently along the existing trail, but a volunteer, community-based organization called Friends of Sacramento River Greenway is working with city council members of riverfront districts to install “Sacramento River Parkway” signs to ensure that access of the riverfront trails is made known to all members of the public.
Until a thruway is set up establishing a regional connection along the Sacramento River, the Pocket area trail is for use by both pedestrians and bicyclists and is expected to be in use mainly by residents of the small community though the trail and plaza are now open for public recreational use.
The Pocket community is “very happy to have access back to that facility,” said Noah Painter, district director for Councilman Fong. Painter added that Fong runs the length of the bike trail every day.