Visions, Challenges Surface as Riverfront Planning Project Advances

A large idea board filled with multi-colored notes did a good job representing the challenges in store for consulting group MIG as it begins drafting a specific plan to guide development—or the lack thereof—along 500 acres of riverfront property stretching from the Redding Rodeo grounds to the Cypress Avenue bridge.

Photo by Jon Lewis

At a recent open house in the Redding Civic Auditorium lobby, Dan Amsden, MIG’s project manager, said his firm and city planning staff were starting the plan development “with a clean slate,” and sure enough, the 15-foot swath of butcher paper behind him was unblemished.

After two hours of spirited, but civil, discussion, Amsden had filled in a smallish section under the heading of “assets,” and a much larger section under the heading of “issues and challenges.” The size of the “visions for the future” section was roughly in the middle of the other two.

Photos by Jon Lewis

It’s early in what is expected to be a two-year process but it was evident that MIG has a lot of ground to cover, a lot of stakeholders to hear from and a lot of opinions, concerns, hopes, desires and fears to consider.

The current Riverfront Specific Plan was adopted 30 years ago, according to Jeremy Pagan, Redding’s director of development services.

Pagan said the plan update is in response to last year’s unsolicited offer by a McConnell Foundation-led group to master plan and ultimately purchase the 45 acres that is home to the rodeo arena and the Civic Auditorium. The other organizations involved in the offer were Turtle Bay Exploration Park, K2 Development Co. and Populous Inc., a global design firm that was represented by Redding native Michael Lockwood.

The Redding City Council rejected the controversial offer and voted instead to award a $1.23 million contract to MIG to draft the update.

The updated plan will create a long-term vision for the riverfront, establish policies to guide conservation and enhancement of natural resources and identify strategies to turn those visions into reality.

“There will be no quick decisions,” promised Daniel Iacofano, the CEO and president of MIG, who led the well-attended Aug. 14 afternoon session of the open house. (A second session was held from 5 to 7 p.m.)

Daniel Iacofano, center, elicits comments during an open house on the Redding Riverfront Specific Plan update. Photo by Jon Lewis


As was the case when the riverfront area was before the council, a handful of well-formed and formidable stakeholder groups made their presence felt and concerns heard during the open house.

In no particular order:

The Redding Rodeo, which celebrated its 75th anniversary in May, very much wants to keep its riverside home. To emphasize the point, a Redding Rodeo Association representative presented Iacofano with a stack of petitions bearing 3,000 signatures of people eager for 75 more years at their historic arena.

Members of the Wintu tribe, whose ancestral lands border the Sacramento River, have joined members of several other Native tribes to demand a seat at the table.

Members of the Wintu Audobon Society, the Shasta Environmental Alliance, the Shasta Chapter of the California Native Plant Society and other conservation groups are seeking input to ensure the area’s riparian habitat and biological diversity are protected.

Photo by Jon Lewis

Assets, visions & challenges

Audience members listed the rodeo grounds, the Sacramento River Trail, the river itself, sport fishing, parklands and cultural resources among the study area’s assets.

Visions for the future proved to be a little trickier. More trails and river access are desired, but some warned against any development akin to San Antonio’s River Walk. “Keep it calm and stable,” was one comment, while another noted that promoting tourism is important to the north state economy “but not at the expense of our backyard.”

Photo by Jon Lewis

The “issues and challenges” heading garnered the most entries. They ranged from extending the river trail south to the Highway 44 bridge, maintaining the rodeo arena, protecting the natural environment, preserving and enhancing winter-run salmon spawning habitat and renovating retail businesses along Park Marina Drive.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” said Iacofano as the session wrapped up. He expressed his appreciation for the “level of comments and variety of thoughts” and reiterated that the Riverfront Specific Plan update process will include several more opportunities for input and engagement.

The plan is expected to reach the Redding Planning Commission and City Council next summer with a City Council vote on the plan and its accompanying environmental impact report by November 2024.

To learn more, visit www.reddingriverfront.org



Jon Lewis

Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at jonpaullewis@gmail.com.

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