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Bike shop owner petitions to keep bike path access to Old Sacramento open

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California State Parks is considering a plan to close off bicycle access to Old Sacramento at one of only two access points along the Sacramento River Bike Trail, and local bike shop owner Tim Castleman says that is unacceptable – so he started a petition to stop the closure from happening.

Castleman, owner of Practical Cycle in Old Sacramento, started the petition in early August after he discovered that the Old Sacramento State Historic Park General Plan calls for the closure. He said he felt the issue had not been fully addressed during project planning or public outreach.

“Nobody was really pushing back against it,” Castleman said Wednesday. “I wanted to make sure that it was clear that there is a lot of people that don’t want it closed.”

Response to the petition has been positive so far, he said, with more than 150 signatures, and he hopes the interest in the issue continues to grow.

According to Castleman’s petition statement on change.org, the closure of the bike path at I Street would eliminate “the single most popular way to exit the bike trail to Old Sacramento and the Downtown area.”

The petition calls for opposition to the planned closure, opting instead to support repairs to the existing bike path.

“If they are going to make an alternate access, I’m OK with it – I just don’t want them to abandon the I Street exit altogether until after another, better, safe access is made,” Castleman said.

Paul Hammond, museum director for the California State Railroad Museum said the planned closure is not a recommendation in a vacuum – there are a lot of things that play into it.

“We are not trying to close off access, we are trying to relocate it,” Hammond said.

California State Parks owns and operates only a portion of Old Sacramento – the remainder is owned either by the city of Sacramento or by private owners and operators. The portion that the state owns includes the I Street access from the Sacramento River Bike Trail, and Hammond said that access point feeds bicyclists directly into the state-owned portion of Old Sacramento where a number of park programs, tours and events are often held.

“Park programs mean crowds, and bikes and crowds don’t mix well,” Hammond said.

The plan includes proposed alternative access points to Old Sacramento from the bike trail, Hammond said, which will reduce potential bicyclist/pedestrian conflict and make traveling into and through Old Sacramento safer for everyone.

One of those alternative routes is slated to be north of the railroad museum, Hammond said, and would lead bicyclists to an intersection at Second Street where they can then either go into Old Sacramento, go toward the railyards or head into downtown.

That creates another point of contention for Castleman: The intersection that the alternate route would lead to is a busy, three-way inlet to Old Sacramento where tour buses often park to unload tourists.

“It just doesn’t seem safe to push everyone into that bottleneck intersection,” Castleman said.

Jordan Lang, project assistant at Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates, said his organization has also expressed concerns about the proposed closure of the I Street bicycle access.

“We call it a significant adverse impact to the project if they did that, unless they found a suitable alternative route for bike riders,” Lang said Wednesday.

The I Street access to the Sacramento River Bike Trail is an “informal and unofficial” access route that was never designed or designated for bicycles, Lang said – yet it is the only suitable route that exists.

“It is a gap in the concrete flood wall that runs along the river,” Lang said. “It is a rough access, through gravel and over tracks. It can be challenging.”

Castleman said he’s not looking for a fight, he just wants a safe, easy way into Old Sacramento for bicyclists.

“In a way, this is a great opportunity,” Castleman said. “That patch of bike path needs improvement, and this is a good time to do it, along with the whole project.”

The general plan is subject to a long process that includes opportunity for public comment. The formal comment period closed July 16, and comments are currently being reviewed by project managers at California State Parks, Lang said. No formal response is expected for a few months.

Read the California State Parks preliminary general plan for Old Sacramento here.

Read the petition on change.org here.

Melissa Corker is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter @MelissaCorker.

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