Village Connector – project concept
At last we are able to formally pitch our first project idea to the Community Services District (CSD) of El Dorado Hills. The concept described here will be presented at the next public meeting of the CSD Parks & Planning Committee. That is Feb 4, 2014. The Facebook event has more information.
“Village Connector Trail & Cross-Country Skills Loop”
The project enriches our community by adding outdoor recreation opportunities for walkers, runners, and bikers. Part one is a simple 1 mile long dirt trail connecting El Dorado Hills Blvd to Promontory Village. Part two is a cross-country style bike skills loop measuring approximately 1/2 mile around (travel distance).
Let these principles guide us. This project concept embraces these principles. Let’s continue to use them as we move forward with planning and implementation.
- Phased approach – build phase 1 ASAP
- Community partnership
- Livable community – meeting needs
- Low cost
Simplicity – keeping the project simple helps to contain costs, speed decision making, speed construction, enable construction by volunteers, and restrain scope creep.
Phased approach – breaking the project into phases allows for the easiest and cheapest asset to get built sooner and thereby giving the community a quick success and motivation to complete phase 2.
Community partnership – we aim to build community assets that the community wants. We believe the best way to do that is to bond the community to the land owner for all aspects of design, planning, fundraising, construction, and maintenance.
Livable community – a “livable community” meets the needs of its members so that people are able to live happy, healthy, full lives within the community area. Taken to its extreme it’s sort of a theoretical utopia. We’re not aiming that high. This project simply aims to support healthy lifestyles, local recreation, fun, alternatives to team sports, economic development, and a visibly active citizenry that makes our community feel alive.
Low cost – the beauty of the project concept is that people want non-manicured options to play within our local area and it just so happens that a little rugged trail within the PG&E power corridor can be really cheap to build. The skills loop will cost more but still remain super affordable. An essential aspect of the project is volunteers building it.
Why this project?
The EDH Trails motto is “live local – play local”. In reality its a tall order to adhere to but the intent is still worth pursuing. My personal story is about getting excited again about biking because EDH has some great trails. It didn’t take me long, though, to also recognize the untapped potential to have more and have it better. One of the first blog posts was about the issues with our trails. At the top of that list and nearly always what people complain about first is “connectivity”. In fact, several months ago, we published our first map highlighting the connectivity issue and how that might get addressed. So phase 1 of this project is to add connectivity for hikers, runners, and bikers. The skills loop (phase 2) just plain kicks it up a notch by elevating a simple trail to something worth bragging about and including on lists of why EDH is the place to be. People love biking. The skills loop fills a need for building mountain biking skills across our community. Whether a user is young, old, novice, expert, male, or female we aim to build something that appeals to a broad spectrum.
The project site extends within the “PG&E power corridor” from El Dorado Hills Blvd to the edge of the housing development called Promontory Village, which is adjacent to the City of Folsom and the county boundary. Owned by the El Dorado Hills CSD, PG&E holds an easement for their power lines. The project is bordered by Crown Village, Governors Village, and Hensley Circle. Roughly 40 homes are adjacent. This rectangular project site measures approximately 300 ft wide by 2800 ft long. The trail crosses one tiny drainage and Hensley Circle twice. The vegetation is grassy oak woodland. There aren’t a lot of oaks, which are usually spread apart. One small segment in the drainage has a full or near full canopy. Throughout the corridor the lines of sight are great to good, which will be important for multi-user safety.
The 1-mile long connector trail is intentionally simple, narrow, and a little bit rugged. The site location in the neighborhood, the mostly gentle topography, and the broad spectrum user group is expected to guide the design towards a cross-country flow-style trail. The skills loop will add some challenging features, but the connector trail is meant to serve the needs of hikers, runners, and bikers. Generally speaking, the design and construction should follow the best practices established by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) and its Trail Care Crew clinics.
The cross-country biking skills loop is designed for a broad spectrum of users to build biking skills off-pavement. The 1/2 mile circuit will have a relatively easy line around. One side is also part of the connector trail; this is the easier side. The other side is meant for one-way traffic flow and will have intermediate-level challenges. All challenge features are optional as this is a skill building circuit that allows each user to pick and choose which challenge features they want to experience.
The project team and how things will get managed is yet to be determined. We expect some mix of community members and CSD staff.
Safety – the project aims to provide a rugged dirt experience that inherently brings up safety concerns. We share those concerns and believe there are common standard ways to handle it while still remaining faithful to the project’s vision. Some methods include signage, good lines of sight, speed management designs, and room to step off the trail tread.
Costs – the beauty of these types of fun dirt experiences that people want is that they can be really inexpensive. Most of the connector trail is nothing more than scraping the grass off the surface to expose the dirt & rock underneath. Some short sections may need a little “bench cut”. All of that on this property can be done by volunteers with hand tools. The bigger expenses are likely be in the cost of materials (dirt, rock, lumber) and facilities such as signs, kiosk, bench, bike repair stand, or hand-rail. Estimating the cost at this time, without CSD input, is unrealistic. We consider cost containment a high priority, though, and expect the project management team will too. There are creative ways to limit out-of-pocket expenses, such as using dirt that a contractor would normally haul to the landfill. And we’re confident the community will come together for fund raising events.
Neighbors – a very important aspect of the project is the fact that it is nestled inside our community to give people recreational opportunities locally and to help drive local economic development. In fact, two of the most used and beloved trails in El Dorado Hills are in very close proximity to adjacent homes. Nearby in Folsom, the same power corridor has been used extensively to host neighborhood parks, a bike park, and trails. Care has been taken when designing this project’s concept, out of respect for the neighbors, to push the project towards the centerline of the 300 ft wide corridor, thus reducing the noise and privacy impacts. The dirt surface will also be much quieter than the existing crunchy gravel roads along fence lines in the corridor now. Also most users most of the time are expected to be moving through and along the trail rather than lingering in any one spot for long. Various mitigation measures could be devised as needed.
Maintenance – the maintenance plan is something else that is to be determined. Following our guiding principle of community partnerships, we expect that the community of users will participate in the ongoing maintenance. For example, volunteers could maintain the trail tread, skills loop features, and perform the seasonal grass cutting along the trail’s edge.
To be determined. It’s not possible to talk about schedule without CSD input.
Local trails and parks are an engine for healthy living. We live busy lives and need every incentive to get outside for fresh air and exercise. Having a fun and functional trail network within the community encourages people to get outdoors. Once outside, seeing people moving throughout the area gives you a sense that we live in a place teeming with life.
The project, its connector trail and skills loop, are expected to fuel the local economy. We see this happening in at least two ways immediately. First, the project fills an important gap in our trail network and therefore makes for a more fun and useful network. This draws users to a section of El Dorado Hills that is in close proximity to Lake Folsom SRA and the businesses nearby such as The Purple Place, Mraz Brewing Company, Burger Hut, Cascada, Subway, Safeway, Starbucks, Mountain Mikes, Bicycle Guys, etc.
The cross-country bike skills loop, in particular, is expected to increase interest in mountain biking. For the first time ever, new bikers and novice bikers will have a place specifically designed for them to progress their biking skills as they consciously choose to challenge themselves at their own pace. This increase in mountain biking is expected to translate into more bike sales for the two bike stores in El Dorado Hills. And then we get a multiplier effect of increased sales at other businesses such as Mraz Brewing Company.
Speaking of economics, we must acknowledge the positive boost in housing values that trails add. The connector trail is merely one mile long but it fills a significant connectivity gap in our overall trail network. As such, the whole trail network’s worth is increased.
And finally, real estate surveys and our own 2013 community survey tell us people love trails and want as much as possible. The residents of EDH love to hike, run, and mountain bike on trails.