Could American Canyon someday be a primary Napa County destination for bicycling, hiking and other outdoor activities?
After hearing plans for the Napa Valley Vine Trail coming through town, American Canyon Planning Commissioner Eric Altman thinks so.
“American Canyon should be the recreational center of the Napa Valley and the North Bay,” Altman said following Thursday’s Planning Commission meeting.
Commissioners heard Todd Novak, a member of American Canyon’s Open Space Advisory Committee, present the proposed route of the Napa Valley Vine Trail through the city.
Sponsored by a nonprofit coalition of groups from communities around the county, the Vine Trail is a planned 44-mile bicycling and pedestrian route from Calistoga to the Vallejo ferry terminal. The first segment, a 1-mile stretch in Yountville, opened last fall.
As recommended by the Vine Trail Coalition, the trail would run through the east side of the city past the high school and cross Highway 29 north of the city at Paoli Loop. The route in American Canyon, as in other areas, would use existing roads and trails on public right-of-way wherever possible.
In the future, American Canyon could be laced with bicycle and hiking trails, Altman said — including the recently opened Napa River Bay Trail, which leads from Wetlands Edge Drive to the river.
The San Francisco Bay Trail, the proposed 500-mile loop around the Bay designed and administrated by the Association of Bay Area Governments, is planned for the west side of American Canyon along the Napa River and will incorporate portions of Wetlands Edge Drive and Eucalyptus Drive.
Novak said the Vine Trail and the San Francisco Bay Trail would not intersect, although they could be linked by future east-west trails, including a proposed Ridge to River Trail that could also tie the Newell Open Space Preserve to the wetlands and the Napa River.
The Ridge to River Trail, on the recreational wish list of many in American Canyon, has not reached the design stage.
Novak added that Friends of American Canyon Open Space had been lobbying for a launch near the city’s corporate yard for kayaking on the river. Altman, who lives on Wetlands Edge Drive, was all in favor of the idea.
Both agreed that a trail system would be a great complement to local businesses, pointing out that microbreweries, delicatessens and coffee shops make wonderful stopping points on a cycling trip.
“You put an REI in Napa Junction III,” Altman said, “and now you’ve got a place that sells recreation equipment for use on the trails.”
Funding for the Vine Trail is expected from a variety of public grants and private donations, Novak said. The total cost of the trail is estimated at $1 million per mile, he said.
Grants could come from different sources, he said. Since a portion of the trail could serve as a bicycle route to American Canyon High School, grant money might be available from the Safe Routes to School program. Another source of funding might be clean air grants.
Commissioner Katharine Bourassa pointed out that part of the trail along American Canyon Road would be in a landscaping and lighting district of the Vintage Ranch subdivision. Homeowners in the district pay fees to the city for road, parks and street light maintenance. The district agreement might preclude use as a trail, she said.
Brent Cooper, the city’s community development director, said the district agreement could be amended to take trail maintenance into account.
One of the tenets of the coalition, Novak said, is to make sure there is funding for maintenance before building a trail segment. Were the trail put in, it might actually reduce district costs and benefit homeowners, he said.
“One of the primary goals (of the coalition) is not to impact property owners in a negative way,” Novak said.