Community Coalition Cites Traffic, Safety and Tourism as Riverfront Plan Essentials

Photo by Jocelyn Olson

Transportation, tourism and public safety were the top attention-grabbers Monday at the initial gathering of community members tasked with determining what to emphasize in a far-reaching plan for development of 500 acres of riverfront property in Redding.

The Community Coalition, composed of 20 residents representing interests and perspectives varying from the Redding Rodeo arena and Turtle Bay to the Kutras tract and the Redding Rancheria, held the first of its four meetings as it works to develop a vision and guiding principles to be included in the Redding Riverfront Specific Plan update.

The goal is to produce a plan that reflects the interests of a diverse community, said Daniel Iacofano, CEO and president of MIG, the consultant hired by the city to draft the plan update. (The current riverfront plan was adopted 30 years ago.)

The 20-member Community Coalition will meet three more times. Photo by Jocelyn Olson.

Melissa Buciak, a Garden tract resident, said it’s important the plan promotes plenty of the bicycle and pedestrian access she enjoys living just east of downtown Redding. “Biking is big for me,” she said, noting that non-motorized transportation around the riverfront will promote use of Redding’s prized trail system.

Iacofano said his team is aware there are plenty of spaces along the Sacramento River that should be left alone. Rebeca Ladron de Guevara, representing the Wintu Audubon Society, supported that sentiment. She said her group is watching carefully to ensure protections required under the California Environmental Quality Act are in place. She said the riparian habitat along the river serves as a bird sanctuary and harbors several important species, including bald eagles.

Jocelyn Olson, who owns and operates a music studio in the Kutras tract, suggested the plan emphasize more art and cultural opportunities south of the Highway 44 bridge, as well as traffic safety improvements on Park Marina Drive that would help people enjoy the river more.

Ideas and proposed attractions are fine, Todd Jones said, but when they’re slated for privately owned land (such as the parcels along Park Marina Drive controlled by the Kutras family), they have to pencil out. “We all want to see something happen on these properties but at the end of the day, they have to be financially feasible,” said Jones, who represents the Shasta Economic Development Corporation.

Josh Divine, who serves on Redding’s Community Services Advisory Commission, said he hopes the specific plan builds on the energy and momentum stemming from the downtown Redding renovation.

“There are a lot of things happening in Redding but this is probably the biggest … there are people involved in this process who want to see something done, but I don’t hear anybody saying we need to turn it into a San Antonio with a massive boardwalk ending with the Santa Monica Pier,” Divine said.

Photo by Jon Lewis

Redding resident Garrett Miller said the plan need not call for wholesale changes. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel here. I’ve always felt the riverfront was underutilized. We need to bring in viable businesses and revenue generators. We have some incredible assets at the rodeo grounds and a renovation could do wonders.”

Baron Browning, representing the Redding Rodeo Association, said the rodeo operators are eager to modernize the facility it rents from the city. “What’s super important to us is the history of the area, the history of the rodeo grounds and the history of the rodeo. Our bigger concerns are a secondary access and the safety of people.”

Public safety is the top concern, agreed Cameron Middleton, who was representing the Asphalt Cowboys on the coalition. Combined, the rodeo arena, the Civic Auditorium, Turtle Bay and the Sheraton Hotel are “our premier area for public events. Aesthetics are important but public safety is tops if you want to bring families down there.”

Public engagement in the plan update process is encouraged. Photo by Jocelyn Olson.

Bill Walker, a retired planner, stressed the need for “a deeper vision” for the riverfront area. “This is not an urban riverfront and that’s really important,” Walker said. “It’s a wildland habitat, a cultural resource and a community gathering riverfront. It doesn’t need a big tourist or commercial development. The river is here; that’s the big thing.”

Jack Potter Jr., chairman of the Redding Rancheria, had to leave Monday’s session before getting a chance to speak but the interests of the Wintu tribe and other Native people, whose ancestral lands border the river, will continue to be represented during the update process, Iacofano said.

The specific plan’s draft, and the accompany draft Environmental Impact Report, are expected to be circulated in the fall and winter of 2024 and the City Council is expected to vote on the plan in the summer of 2025.

The coalition will meet again at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 23, in the Community Room at the Redding City Council chambers.

To follow the planning process and make comments, visit www.reddingriverfront.org

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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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