Volunteers who’ve worked hard to reclaim parkland from illegal activities will make it easy for people to test the waters of recreation in and along Dry Creek and the Tuolumne River.
The first Modesto RecFest, which organizers hope becomes an annual event, will be held Saturday in Tuolumne River Regional Park’s Gateway Parcel. It will offer guided and self-guided activities, including biking, canoe and kayak paddling, orienteering, kite flying, nature walks, trail running and disc golf. A kids fishing clinic even will be offered at the free festival, which runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Attendees are encouraged to bring their own bikes, kites, watercraft and fishing poles, but sponsoring organizations will have a limited amount of equipment available for loan. The Tuolumne River Trust, which is spearheading the festival, will provide about a dozen bikes, said Meg Gonzalez, the trust’s director of education outreach.
The aim of the River Trust and partner organizations, including Operation 9-2-99, ShadowChase Running Club, the Stanislaus Audubon Society, Dry Creek Trail Riders, Latino Outdoors, Modesto Area Disc Golfers and the Stanislaus County Bicycle Club, is to get parks regularly occupied by recreational users.
"Because the more of that presence we have, the less destructive and not pleasant activities are going on there,” Gonzalez said.
"Recreation is the way to push back” against illegal park use, Operation 9-2-99’s Chris Guptill told The Bee in January as he helped clear out homeless encampments along Dry Creek in Modesto’s Moose Park.
Darin Jesberg, a Modesto Fire Department battalion chief and founder of the Dry Creek Trails Coalition, said efforts to boost recreational use have gone hand-in-hand with cleanup and grooming of the Gateway Parcel. But last winter’s flooding “put the brakes” on plans for something like RecFest.
It looks like Modesto is safe from flooding this year, but rain remains a concern. It’s in the forecast all the way from Monday night until Sunday.
RecFest will be a rain-or-shine event, Gonzalez said, though "if it’s a downpour, we probably won’t expect people to show,” She said last week, "We haven’t talked about what if it rains straight up to the day,” leaving the ground muddy. "We’ll show up for whoever comes out.”
There will be binoculars for nature walks, information booths and a tent offering minor bike repairs, such as fixing flat tires, she said.
Entrance, parking, registration and general information will be at Beard Brook Park at South Morton Boulevard and 11th Street. "We’re going to have a board there that lets people know when we’re having guided activities,” Gonzalez said. "For example, if 200 people show up and all want to paddle, we won’t be able to do that.
"Every activity will have at least two guided sessions. Maybe paddling from 9 to 10 and 11 to noon. Nature walks every hour. Other things people can do will be ongoing, like disc golf and kite flying.”
Tuolumne River Trust is taking registration to participate or volunteer at www.tuolumne.org/events/recfest. To learn more, call 209-236-0330.