AmCan trail
The city’s new nature trail opened to the public this week. The trail runs from Clarke’s Ranch to the Napa River. Kerana Todorov/Register

American Canyon residents’ longtime wish for a path to the Napa River has become a reality.

The American Canyon City Council on April 28 formally accepted the finished project from the contractor, Hess Construction Co. of American Canyon, thus opening path to the public. A grand opening is scheduled for June 5.

“I think it’s great for the public,” said Barry Christian, a member of the American Canyon Open Space Advisory Committee and an avid outdoorsman, who has lobbied city and county officials for years to figure a way to gain legal access to the river.

Ed West, the city’s vice mayor, said he looks forward to heading out to the new Napa River and Bay Trail, a flat path that starts near Clarke’s Ranch and the eucalyptus grove, and meanders through restored wetlands and past old salt ponds, ending beside the Napa River.

The property the trail cuts through was closed to the public for years while a nearby landfill and salt ponds were in operation. But West, a lifelong resident, remembers a few childhood adventures there.

“We used to go out there and play around,” said West.

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The recently completed trail, a flat, 1.4-mile path, offers views of nearby wetlands and the Napa River and has attracted hikers and dog walkers for weeks. Birders enjoy the area since it is home to a wide range of species including raptors, sandpipers and ducks.

The $1 million Napa River and Bay Trail was paid for with $676,000 in federal and state grants and $350,000 in local parks funds. In addition, the city received a $70,000 state grant to improve the trail head, installing two interpretative signs near the wetlands about the history of the area and the wetlands. Eventually, the city path will connect with a river trail extending from American Canyon to Napa.

The Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District is overseeing the planning and construction of that $8 million project, which will be paid for with state and federal grants. It will include a segment along the Napa River to Green Island Road, thanks to a $1 million grant for the Department of Fish and Game to restore former salt ponds into tidal wetlands.

John Woodbury, general manager of the Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District, said that part of the trail may be under construction next spring. The grant will also pay for the construction of a fence around much of the former landfill where methane gas is now being extracted.

The Open Space Advisory Committee and others want to foster a culture to protect the trail. The volunteers want to make sure dogs stay on leash and people remain on the path to avoid trampling on nesting birds. The new trail is off-limits to horses.

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