RMA General Manager Greg Vorster, left, and CSD President Mark Pecotich explain the proposed trail system to the 20 Murietans attending the Parks Committee meeting. (Click photo for larger image.)
The community’s Parks Committee voted Thursday to send the county a development trails map endorsed by the Rancho Murieta Association and the Community Services District. The RMA and CSD representatives voted yes on the map; the development representatives abstained from voting.
The vote, years in the making, wasn’t a surprise, since the RMA and CSD boards had each instructed their representatives how to vote. The Parks Committee consists of two RMA representatives, one CSD representative and two development representatives, so when the RMA and CSD vote together they are a majority.
As RMA General Manager Greg Vorster began his presentation on the plan, developer representative John Sullivan interrupted and asked to make a correction, saying the CSD had instructed its representative to vote on a “conceptual trail plan,” but Vorster’s memo to the Parks Committee referred to a vote on a “master trail plan.”
RMA says its plan is based on a 1990 map, Exhibit E, that was part of the community’s Park Development Agreement, which set our process for parks planning. The developers don’t accept Exhibit E, saying it was only conceptual and is marked as such.
Sullivan also argued that the CSD board’s instruction was to bring the map to a public meeting for input. Mark Pecotich, CSD board president and representative to the Parks Committee, said Thursday's meeting fulfilled that directive.
The developers’ version of the trails map has been on file with the county for almost a year. The county will rule on the plans during the development review process.
Although the Parks Committee hadn’t met in 15 months, Vorster pointed out the map has been to the RMA and CSD boards a handful of times in that period. Last April, the two boards held a walking meeting, touring existing trails with members of the community to discuss the possibilities. Conversation at that walking meeting was dominated by members of the Murieta Trails Stewardship, who favored unpaved trails.
Vorster’s first talking point was that the RMA map proposes 17½ miles of natural trails and 6½ miles of off-street paved trails. The RMA has argued the need for paved trails to serve much of the community, such as people with strollers or the elderly.
Off-street paved trails would be 12 feet wide, with two-foot shoulders, Vorster said – like the trails around Escuela Park. The map shows the paved trails on North and South, connected by the pedestrian bridge, and attempting to make as much connection as possible to Lakes Calero, Chesbro and Clementia and running to the Cosumnes River.
“What we’re hoping to achieve is a trail that basically will take you from one side of the development to the other,” Vorster said, “touching on the park sites, going around the lakes.” Existing gravel and dirt roads around the lakes echo the RMA’s map, he said.
Under the park agreement, the paved trails would be built by the developer and owned and maintained by the RMA.
Pecotich, who addressed the map’s unpaved trails, said many of the proposed trails are the ones that exist now and are maintained by volunteers. “This is not (decomposed granite) path; this is dirt,” he said. “Which is nice because it’s easier to maintain, not high cost. And it kind of represents the natural feel of what our community is out there right now.”
Pecotich said some stretches of proposed path have easement issues that must be addressed, since RMA, CSD and the Country Club own some of the land, not to mention the developers.
A member of the 20-person audience asked if the RMA plan would mean more or less trail in the community.
“You’re gaining,” Pecotich said. There are presently about 14 miles of narrow dirt trails, he said, but if you count access roads and dirt paths, it’s probably about 22 miles. The map proposes 24 miles.
He said a robust trail system is a great amenity. “This is something that draws people to communities,” which is evident in real estate marketing, he said. He added, “This is a private trail system, in a sense, that is just for us.”
Asked to compare the RMA's and the developers' trails maps, Vorster said both have on-street, off-street and natural trails. Tom deRegt, one of the development leaders, speaking from the audience, said the biggest difference between the maps is the amount of off-street, paved trails around the lakes proposed by RMA versus the developers' proposal for on-street paved trails and off-street access. "That is the biggest conceptual difference," deRegt said. He added that he isn't sure the community wants paved trails around the lakes, which is what he said he heard when touring with community members at the RMA/CSD walking meeting last April.
Cheryl McElhany, the committee chair, replied that there were no mothers with strollers present at the April meeting. Vorster added that the trails won't be as they are today. "There'll be housing around those lakes, so these trails will be running in between residential communities, not open space," he said.
DeRegt told the audience the developers have been reluctant to talk about the trail locations until the full range of trail issues are on the table – access, ownership, maintenance and liability. All this will be discussed during the environmental review process, he said. “Hopefully,” he said, “we can then sit down and get into some of the real issues that need to be addressed to implement and execute a conceptual plan.”
Sullivan said the developers were abstaining from the vote because they've already submitted their map to the county.
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