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Lodi project would protect nature area, offer new trails

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Posted: Thursday, September 22, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 11:49 am, Thu Sep 22, 2011.

City of Lodi staff is working on a plan to provide two new walking trails with Mokelumne River viewing areas for visitors strolling through the Lodi Lake Nature Area.

The new footpaths will also be elevated a couple of feet to provide a barrier if the 15-foot riverbank between the river and the lake completely erodes and water starts flooding into the nature area.

Currently, the nature area trail ends at Pigs Lake and then visitors can loop back to the entrance. There is one overlook, but it has severely eroded throughout the years.

The project would add 720 feet of “official” trails to the nature area and improve about 200 feet of already existing trail. The viewing areas would include two platforms on the north and south side of Pigs Lake.

For the first time, the project will allow visitors in wheelchairs to enjoy views of the river in the nature area, city spokesman Jeff Hood said.

The city is looking for feedback and has set up a website, www.lodilakenaturearea.com, for residents to leave comments before Sept. 30.

“We are looking for groups or people out there that use the nature area to voice support for more trails,” Hood said.

All of the endorsements from residents and local groups will be used when Lodi submits an application to a statewide grant program to try and get money for the project.

“It's another thing we can do to show the resources agency the value of the project,” Hood said.

For years, the city has looked for funding and searched for solutions to the eroding riverbank. If nothing is done and the riverbank collapses, most of the accessible areas in the 58-acre nature area will be covered in 3 to 5 feet of water when the river is high, Hood said.

The city has applied for money to fix Pigs Lake before through the California Natural Resources Agency in 2009. Proposition 84 bond financing is geared toward flood control, water supply preservation and habitat conservation.

The agency rejected the city’s application late last year because state experts felt the city’s plan to reinforce the riverbank with more secure riprap, which is rock, sand and natural vegetation, was not suitable.

Agency employees said it would be a more environmentally friendly solution to let the riverbank fail and build up a berm at the southern and western edges of Pigs Lake.

The city plans to raise the trails by several feet to be even with the height of the riverbank, Hood said. By creating elevated trails, the city hopes it will also act as a berm to hold in the water if the river bank fails or when there is a wet winter.

In July, East Bay Municipal Utility District released more water than usual because of snow melt and rains late in the season. This caused Pigs Lake to spill over into the nature area, eroding some trails and forcing the park to be closed for about a week.

“If we have an elevated trail behind Pigs Lake, it could serve as a backstop to flooding in the nature area if there is a catastrophic weather event and the narrow riverbank at Pigs Lake disintegrates before we find the money to get it fixed,” Hood wrote on the project’s website.

Also, the city plans to include a check valve, so the city could drain water to certain areas of the nature area.

“If it is going to overflow, we can control that instead of just having it drain out to the low points and eroding our trails,” Hood said.

Having additional trails will allow more people to view the river, said Kathy Grant, Lodi Lake docent coordinator. She said school groups will be able to walk back on tours and see the river, and docents will be able to point out the signs or river otters in the area that scoot from the river into the lake.

“There’s a lot of people back there, so it will give everyone more space and give them another destination and a place to stop,” Grant said.

Contact reporter Maggie Creamer at maggiec@lodinews.com or read her blog at www.lodinews.com/blogs/city_buzz.

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