Getting around Bidwell Park

Don Robinson and his family live several blocks west of the Vallombrosa/Manzanita intersection.

Although Bidwell Park is a lovely asset to the community, it becomes a barrier to north-south auto travel beyond the immediate town center. Luckily, Hwy 99 provides for a rapid town crossing in central zones, even though it creates traffic mayhem at the First Avenue crossing. Chico has tried to create as many non-through areas as possible, often to the detriment of well-thought-out traffic corridors, to take care of normal residential activity.

Oddly enough, the Manzanita Avenue [widening project’s] environmental-impact report indicates a massive amount of thought, minus, of course, the cost factors of the alternatives in current or near-future dollars. The idea of treading lightly on the narrow strip of the park is somewhat laudable, but it has become almost a mania in our community. We think we can provide for all the wonderful park uses in that strip while facilitating local and cross-town traffic without harming birds, bees and trees.

Here are some controversial general thoughts about the Manzanita/Bidwell Park through-pass:

· Be willing to sacrifice temporarily some of the rampant old growth in the area knowing that other areas can pick up a park feel in time by regeneration and provision of summer soil moisture.

· An elevated bridge would allow foot and horse traffic alongside the creek and alleviate crossing problems for park users.

· Be willing to move some of the Hooker Oak field facility into an accessible area with good traffic flow to meet growing summer recreation needs.

· Establish a speed control zone to provide for moderate speed movement of through traffic, improving the air quality for park users and residents near the corridor (i.e., limiting the current stop/go during higher use).

The immediate bridge area is charming but very out of date for current community traffic needs. Large trees at road’s edge are a substantial hazard; fire vehicles need a wider roadbed to improve emergency movement. Even park users could use a more isolated cross of the traffic corridor. All eastside residents and some commuters could use a better marked, more steadily flowing transit. Eventually, the Hwy 32 to 99 Eaton Road bypass needs to happen. Our big problem is simply being brave enough to reorganize the park in this small area and opening up other near areas to use and enjoyment.