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Resident Bernhard Krevet wants the downtown Napa trail link between Veterans Memorial Park and the Oxbow Commons bypass to be a true waterfront experience.

Presently, walkers and bikers can travel north on a third-of-a-mile-long Napa River promenade from the Napa River Inn through Veterans Memorial Park. But when they reach the metal industrial-style building that used to house BurgerFi, the promenade ends.

They can continue up steps and make two right-angle turns to pass along a path between the flood wall and former BurgerFi that is about four-feet wide in one section. Then they come to First Street. To cross while avoiding traffic, they must make a brief detour to Main Street and the traffic signal.

Krevet sees a better option – have the promenade continue on along Napa Creek on a cantilevered concrete section under the First Street bridge. There, travelers would be away from the traffic and close to the water, vegetation, geese, swallows and ducks.

“This would be a very natural way,” Krevet said as he stood in Veterans Memorial Park on a recent day.

The trail would emerge at the public plaza behind the Opera House. Users would cross Napa Creek on an existing bridge, make a quick right, and then go into Oxbow Commons park with Napa River views using an existing entrance.

Krevet is president of Friends of the Napa River, the grassroots group that formed in the late 1990s to lobby for a “living river” flood control project. At his request, urban planner Terence Bottomley made a sketch of the proposed First Street underpass project.

Technically, such a trail should be possible, Krevet said. He noted a section of Napa River promenade already goes under the Third Street bridge.

Krevet intends to be a frequent user if the First Street bridge undercrossing ever becomes a reality. A couple of times a week, he bikes this section of Napa River trail.

He made a pitch for the First Street undercrossing during the May 16 Napa County Watershed Symposium held at The CIA at Copia. He wants the city’s Bicycle and Trails Advisory Committee to take up the issue.

Krevet doesn’t know how much a First Street underpass trail would cost or where the money would come from. He and Friends of the Napa River are still at the stage of drumming up interest in the concept.

“My experience has been whatever you have, you will find some way of financing it if it’s a good idea,” he said.

The existing Napa River promenade was born out of the flood control project that brought concrete flood walls to this section of river more than a decade ago. That history raises its own set of considerations.

Altering the promenade to include a First Street underpass would mean altering the federally authorized flood control project, which would mean working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said Phillip Miller of the county Flood Control and Water Conservation District.

The Third Street bridge underpass was designed along with the flood walls, so the hydraulic studies took it into account, Miller said. Installing a First Street bridge underpass would mean doing studies for changes to the existing flood control project.

A concrete cantilever path might interfere with Napa Creek flows, Miller said. In that case, the trail design would have to be creative.

In other words, altering the existing flood control project to put in a First Street Bridge underpass might be complicated.

Friends of the Napa River is no stranger to complicated. The group successfully fought to keep another section of the Napa River promenade trail near the water.

In 2005, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was preparing to build the flood wall near Napa Mill south of Third Street. Plans called for 100 feet of Napa River promenade to veer between buildings before rejoining the river.

Friends of Napa River and others objected and made a last-minute plea for a change. The late Harry Price, developer of the hotel and restaurants at Napa Mill, agreed to pay for a quick engineering study to keep the trail near the river.

Trail advocates won. The promenade opened in 2008 without the 100-foot gap.

“When I walk or bike around the Hatt Mill on the cantilevered river trail, I remember Harry proving that this was technically and visually the best, the only acceptable design of the connection from Veterans Park to Riverside Drive, creating a real gem in the middle of Napa,” Krevet said.

Now Krevet sees a chance to do something at the former BurgerFi property. The property is for sale and Krevet said the unknown owner-to-be might want to be involved with a trail project at First Street.

It’s only an idea. Still, Krevet hopes the waterfront trail detour will someday be gone.

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.