Waterford and Oakdale got state grants Wednesday for trails that will help connect people to rivers.
Waterford won $1,478,340 to a extend a half-mile trail along the Tuolumne River, its southern border, to two miles.
Oakdale received $862,625 for a project that includes a 750-foot switchback between the Stanislaus River and Valley View Park, which sits on a riverside bluff in the northeast corner of town.
The selection committee "realized immediately that this would open the river to the citizens of Oakdale," Mayor Pat Paul said.
The grants were among 33 statewide that were presented at a Sacramento gathering organized by the California Natural Resources Agency. It awarded about $34 million for river parkway projects from a water bond measure approved by voters in 2006.
"This is huge," said Tim Ogden, city manager in Waterford, where the grant will pay almost all of the cost of a project designed with residents' input.
It includes the trail, a staircase down a bluff, picnic tables, shade structures, wildlife exhibits and other amenities. Future funding could add a launch for canoes and other small craft.
The trail will stretch across all of the river frontage in Waterford, connecting River Park on the east with the site of a planned sports complex near Waterford High School. The work will include stabilizing the riverbank and removing nonnative vegetation.
Ogden said the project could help attract visitors to Waterford, which lies on a route to Yosemite National Park. "We're the 'Gate-way to Recreation,' " he said of the city's motto. "We want to change that to 'You're Here.' "
Construction could start next year and conclude in 2014, Ogden said.
A time line for the Oakdale project was not available, but Paul said she hopes it moves along quickly. She credited volunteers with helping get the grant.
The 17-acre Valley View Park has paths, benches and views of the river and Sierra Nevada. It is near the Burchell Hill subdivision.
The state program aims to enhance recreation, habitat and flood management.
"Our river parkway grants help communities connect children with nature, promote public health by providing families with greater outdoor recreational opportunities, and protect the rivers that provide us with clean water," said John Laird, secretary for natural resources for Gov. Jerry Brown, in a news release.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2385.