2011-01-21 / Front Page

Feedback positive on greenway project

By Carissa Marsh cmarsh@theacorn.com

PEACEFUL PARK—This artist’s rendering depicts the Arroyo Community Center, to be located in the heart of the greenway. 
Photo courtesy City of Simi Valley PEACEFUL PARK—This artist’s rendering depicts the Arroyo Community Center, to be located in the heart of the greenway. Photo courtesy City of Simi Valley The city’s neighborhood councils are reviewing plans to beautify the Arroyo and transform it into a recreational area for the entire community. So far, most residents have welcomed the project with open arms.

Neighborhood Council No. 2 was the first to evaluate the project at its meeting Jan. 11.

While the large-scale, decadeslong project likely won’t be finished until about 2040, current residents are still excited by the prospect of turning the uninviting flood channel into a lush greenway.

“I think this is a really fabulous project and I’m looking forward to seeing part of it,” said Susan Zimmerman, a member of the council’s executive board.

The Arroyo begins on the east end of Simi at Corriganville Park and runs 12 miles through the center of the city and into Moorpark. The wash, as residents call it, is managed by the city, the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District and the Ventura County Watershed Protection District.

The greenway would enhance pedestrian and bicycle access, connect Simi’s parks and schools, and improve the look of the corridor.

To do that, the project will realign and extend the existing trail, develop new trailheads, provide pedestrian and bike bridges and overlooks, install interpretive exhibits and create more picnic areas.

Tony Stewart, senior planner with the city, said the timeline is open-ended due to funding. The project is expected to take 20 to 30 years to complete, and a consultant, accounting for inflation, priced the project at $60 million.

“If we got all that tomorrow, we’d construct it as fast as possible. But we envision the money trickling in,” Stewart said. “We just got the first million.”

He was referring to last September’s announcement that the park district had received $802,275 in Proposition 84 funds to kick-start the project.

The money will be put toward Phase 1, which includes constructing two miles of new paved trails from Erringer Road to Sequoia Avenue and 17 accessible trail entries. The first phase will cost about $1 million, and the city and the park district have each pledged $100,000.

Ed Hayduk, assistant general manager for the park district, said that area was chosen because the district felt it would make the biggest initial impact.

Subsequent improvements would be done in stages and require multiple funding sources. Hopefully local businesses will be among those sources, Stewart said, but no money will come out of Simi’s general fund.

However, executive board members Ida Kosty and Peter Carrube expressed concern about where future grants would come from.

“The key thing here is we were very successful in getting that first grant we applied for. They were very impressed that we had four agencies working together,” Hayduk told the board. “We identified all these various projects (along the Arroyo), and it’s under a phasing plan but it’s designed to be real flexible” so that certain projects will be built as funding allows.

Still, Carrube said, there are too few guarantees.

“I think there’s an awful lot of effort and a lot of money being put toward something that they’re not really clear on the future of,” he said. “It’s a pretty big project to put on hope, in my opinion.”

Another concern for Kosty was that the improvements could make the Arroyo a more attractive place to the homeless, dozens of whom already live in the wash.

But Stewart said the project should do the opposite.

“The purpose of this project is to get people down in the Arroyo, and when you have more people watching you, you are less likely to commit crime,” he said.

At the end of the meeting the executive board voted 8-2 in favor of the project, with Kosty and Carrube dissenting. Carrube said he doesn’t see the Arroyo as an entertainment destination.

“You got your joggers and you got your bicyclists, but I don’t think that building benches and trees and bridges along the Arroyo is going to bring families down there. It’s not a place to have a picnic.”

But fellow residents disagree.

“People are using it now, and if we can get the funding for it, it should be upgraded,” said Gerald Smith, vice chair of the board. “It is a great way of getting your exercise, getting around and getting to know your neighbors.”

Frank Salinas told the city and the park district, “Good job.”

Neighborhood Council No. 3 reviewed the project Jan. 13 and the executive board unanimously recommended its approval. Neighborhood Council No. 4 voted 5-4 in favor on Jan. 18.

Neighborhood Council No. 1 will hear the project Feb. 3.

The specific plan for the project is scheduled to go before the planning commission Feb. 23 and then to the City Council in March.

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