Wheels Turning

The FORTAG route through the Frog Pond Wetland Preserve is a point of controversy in Del Rey Oaks. TAMC secured a $10.3 million state grant this year to pay for the DRO portion of the bike trail network.

The brainchild of CSU Monterey Bay professors Fred Watson and Scott Waltz, Fort Ord Recreational Trail and Greenway – FORTAG for short – has gone from a dream to a bonafide plan by the Transportation Agency for Monterey County in six years. According to the draft environmental impact report released by TAMC on Nov. 7, the proposed trail will encompass nearly 28 miles, with most of it built as a paved Class 1 bike path, 12 to 16 feet wide, with a soft shoulder on either side for pedestrians, as well as greenspace.

The miles of trail are designed to make commuting easier for bicyclists, as it helps connect inland residents to the Coastal Rec Trail in several spots stretching from Marina to Monterey.

To create the trail network, Watson and Waltz used geographic information system mapping (GIS) to identify population and workplace hubs; the trail connects to Ryan Ranch at its southern tip, loops around Marina in the north, and criss-crosses through CSU Monterey Bay. It also creates bike access to the Fort Ord National Monument, including some spots with ocean views.

An estimated 1,000 to 3,000 people would use the trail daily, according to the draft EIR. (That’s averaged over the total trail, with areas like CSUMB likely to have more users.)

As the trail crosses over Fremont Boulevard in Del Rey Oaks, it would be one block away from the recently completed bike path in the center of North Fremont Street in Monterey.

The trail narrows into an eight-foot permeable-surface path through the Frog Pond Wetland Preserve in Del Rey Oaks – “the primary area of controversy,” according to the draft EIR.

Some residents there are complaining that the trail would bring hundreds of trail users through the Frog Pond. Others have voiced concerns about the trail potentially drawing homeless people and crime.

“We’ll be giving strangers an excuse to be in our city,” resident Kathy Palazzolo, who works for the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department, told the Del Rey Oaks City Council on Nov. 26, the night that TAMC made one of many presentations to local agencies as it gathers public comments on the draft EIR. Other residents at the meeting described the Frog Pond preserve as “our” park, despite the fact it’s part of the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District.

Not all residents who spoke out were against the trail. Susan Ragsdale-Cronin, who uses her bike primarily to get around, said, “Anything to make my life safer, I’m all for it.”

TAMC is accepting public comments through Jan. 3, and is holding two public meetings on Dec. 12 to hear from the public. Agency representatives will visit Monterey City Council on Dec. 17. Comments received either in writing or at meetings will be incorporated into a final environmental impact report, which TAMC officials expect will be ready for a vote before the TAMC board of directors on March 25.

Funding would come from multiple sources, including $20 million allocated by TAMC’s Measure X, approved by Monterey County voters in 2016.

TAMC Draft EIR Meetings on Thursday, Dec. 12, are at 2-4pm, Oldemeyer Center, Seaside, and 6-8pm, Marina Branch Library, Marina. Written comments may be sent to Rich Deal, principal engineer, rich@tamcmonterey.org

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