The city of Lodi is considering providing more access to the Mokelumne River by opening up 3.6 acres of property to launch canoes and kayaks.
Residents who want to access the river in town only have the option of launching from Lodi Lake.
“There is so little public access to the Mokelumne River, so we said perhaps we should look at more ways to make it available,” city spokesman Jeff Hood said.
The former landfill property is located north of Awani Drive and east of the Union Pacific train trestle. It is currently fenced off to the public.
City officials have no funding to turn the area into an access point, but wanted to gauge interest before studying the idea further. There will be a community workshop on Aug. 30 for the city to receive feedback.
“We want to see what people think. If there is no interest in it, then we’ll say, ‘Thank you very much,’ and move on to the next challenge,” Hood said.
It is possible the city could qualify for state funding from the California River Parkways Grant Program that provides agencies with money to acquire, restore, protect or develop river parkways. Hood said he was researching the program while trying to find a solution for Pigs Lake.
Throughout the years, a levee between the lake and the Mokelumne River has gradually eroded, and if it completely disappears, a large part of the Lodi Lake Nature Area will be flooded.
Several years ago, the city applied for grant program to help repair the levee between the river and Pigs Lake, but the project did not make the cut.
Hood started researching other projects that received funding while preparing another application for Pigs Lake. He discovered that Watsonville was awarded money to provide an access point on the Pajaro River, so he thought a similar project could be done in Lodi on the vacant, city-owned property.
There was a discussion about opening up the area to the public in the 1990s, but the idea was axed after opposition from neighbors.
The area often has problems with transients trespassing and setting up camp by the river, Hood said. Police are occasionally called out there and spend an hour or two at a time dealing with problems.
If the area was opened to the public, it might actually prevent problems with transients, Hood said.
“When they open these areas up to recreation, the transients and homeless who congregate in the area tend to leave, because they don’t seem to like people watching what they are doing,” he said.
Also, if the area was developed into an access point, it could decrease police response time, Hood said. Currently, officers usually park on Awani Drive and then walk the 770 feet down to the river.
The city invited all of the neighbors to find out their opinion on possibly opening up the area. The meeting will be at 6 p.m. Aug. 30 in the Cottage Room at Hutchins Street Square, 125 S. Hutchins St.