by Cheryl Senn
More than 60 people attended the Kings River Conservancy’s (KRC) North Riverside Park and Incubator House grand opening on March 16.
Speakers and guests in attendance included John Thompson, Resources Manager with the County of Fresno, David Orth, General Manager with the Kings River Conservation District, Louie Long, Environmental Resources Manager with the Kings River Conservation District, Deborah Lapp, vice-president of the Board of Directors with the KRC, and California State Assemblyman Henry T. Perea.
The park, which is located on the northern bank of the Kings River just downstream of Pine Flat Dam, is the KRC’s newest park. “Starting and building a park, like this, isn’t easy,” said Jim Van Haun, KRC Executive Director, who also described the permit process and other challenges it took to make the park a reality.
The park is located on property owned by Fresno County and is part of the KRC’s Kings “Ribbon of Gems,” according to the grand opening program. The park was funded by a $285,000 grant through the California River Parkways Grant Program.
The park features a 1.5 mile multi-purpose trail directly accessing the Kings River, of which, one-half mile is Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible. A one-half acre parking area with room for eleven cars and an adjoining two-stall ADA compliant restroom completes the access park area. Also featured are two kiosks, three picnic tables, and visitor feedback stations.
Removal of fig trees between the incubator house and informational kiosk was a challenge. The fig trees were a virtual jungle.
“I applaud the Kings River Conservancy and the Conservation District’s vision,” said John Thompson. Thompson said the opening of the park was important since Easter is two weeks away and there will be many people driving up to the park.
During the grand opening ceremony, there was a moment of silence for Ted Martin who recently passed, and whose family is continuing to support the KRC’s projects. During the moment of silence, the Kings River could be heard in the background. “It’s nice to hear the river,” said Van Haun. “Ted would’ve liked that.”
Orth said the KRCD has invested two million in infrastructure to create habitats for fish at the same time as meeting irrigation needs of the Valley.A total of 150 native trees and shrubs have been planted in the park area. With the assistance of two Fresno State botanists the KRC is able to make progress with invasive plant species removal along the walking trail, which is funded by a generous grant from the Ted Martin Family.
The grand opening of the North Riverside Park also included a tour of the new incubator house. The Ted Martin Family Grant has also allowed for the refurbishing of the trout incubator house adjacent to the walking trail and expansion of the existing program managed by the Kings River Fisheries Management Program (KRFMP), according to the grand opening information program.
The Martin Grant has dedicated $25,000 to security of the incubator building and $15,000 for five years, to purchase trout eggs for incubation. In 2012, the KRFMP signed a long-term lease agreement with Fresno County for use of the building.
After the presentations from the guest speakers, a ceremonial ribbon was cut by Assemblyman Henry T. Perea’s daughter, Ava.
Long-time fisherman Rick Thompson from Clovis said he has been fishing this area since he was a kid. “It’s awesome,” Rick said, about the North Riverside Park opening. “There’s not as much parking, but it is a lot nicer to have the restroom.”
“We feel gratified, as a conservancy, to build this fairly major project with it all being grant funded,” said Van Haun, who also said there are hundreds of people visiting the park area on any given weekend. “So, I guess, that’s the most gratifying.”
There are other parks being planned which are all part of the “Ribbon of Gems.” “It’s all starting to come to fruition,” said Van Haun.
The KRC is working with the City of Sanger on a project and they are continuing to remove invasive plant species. They are also staying busy with upcoming events. Their annual Spring Fling takes place on the seventh of April and a River Clean Up on April 20.
“Just come out and enjoy it,” said Van Haun. “I think it’s a great part of the river, right in here.”
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