Finally, there is direction on where to place a Fresno access point to the San Joaquin River and a planned trail extension.

The state agency in charge of making that decision picked a location through a city park over a residential neighborhood.

Officially, the San Joaquin River Conservancy board voted 8-6 to build a road and parking lot through Spano Park (known as Alternative 5B) at the end of Palm Avenue, north of Nees Avenue. The debate Wednesday (Dec. 13) lasted four-and-a-half hours. A previous meeting lasted seven hours without yielding a decision.

The choice was between 5B and Alternative 1, which would improve upon a private road at the end of River View Drive in the bluffs neighborhood of northwest Fresno.

Supporters of 5B in the crowd at the Clovis Veterans Memorial District building consisted mainly of residents from the river bluff area. They were concerned about increased traffic around their homes. Also, they said that Spano Park provided better access to more Fresnans.

Rudd Ruffles River View Access Supporters

Fresno City Hall provided ardent support for 5B. Bruce Rudd, the former city manager now officially holding the post of interim assistant city manager, represented Mayor Lee Brand at the meeting.

He drew the ire of attendees when some interpreted his comments as meaning that the city would not offer financial support if the board picked Alternative 1.

Rudd read an imaginary conversation between executives from the conservancy and the city. In the scenario, the conservancy continually asked for more funding to help maintain Alternative 1. The punch line? Rudd’s repeating of the line “for an alternative the city did not support.”

“Is that a threat?” one man yelled out.

Alternative 1 backers said that because there is an existing road (albeit private behind a gate) at River View Drive, it would cost less. They also had environmental concerns with the Spano Park option— citing that some of the riverbed land is a former dump, and expressing concern over the potential destruction of the park. Fresno County environmental officials said that with proper mitigation, the former dump would not be an issue.

Cost Questions

Conservancy staff provided revised cost estimates: $4 million for Spano Park; $2 million plus the cost for a traffic signal for the River View Drive plan.

Cliff Tutelian, developer of a shopping center next to Spano Park, said even those cost estimates are likely high. He supported Alternative 5B.

The Vote

The board is made up of 14 members from local government, private citizens and other state and regional agencies (one position remains vacant).

The approval of Alternative 5B came with the condition that it garners the appropriate permits and licenses from various regulatory agencies. If those guidelines aren’t met within one year, the board will come back and discuss approving Alternative 1.

Vote Tally On Spano Park Access

Yes (agency represented on the board):

Andreas Borgeas (Fresno County Board of Supervisors)

Steve Brandau (Fresno City Council)

Brett Frazier (Madera County Board of Supervisors)

William Oliver (Madera City Council)

Roy Spina (Fresno Metropolitan Flood Control District)

Julie Vance (Department of Fish and Wildlife)

Bryn Forhan (citizen representative)

Paul Gibson (citizen representative)


Carl Janzen (Madera Irrigation District)

Kent Gresham (Department of Parks & Recreation)

John Donnelly (Wildlife Conservation Board)

Julie Alvis (Natural Resources Agency)

Jennifer Lucchesi (State Lands Commission)

Karen Finn (Department of Finance)




One Response

  1. Sharon Weaver

    Unfortunately Mr. Taub got some of his facts wrong for this story. The “private” road behind the gate is not private at all, it is located on public land owned by the San Joaquin River Conservancy. The decision yesterday is yet another situation where the City of Fresno has chosen to appease the influential few at a higher cost to all taxpayers.


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