Bee Investigator

‘No trespassing’ signs give pause to north Modesto trail users

Aaron Sweet and Melissa Hodge walk the Hetch Hetchy Trail at Longbridge Drive on Tuesday. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission recently added“No trespassing” signs to many of the entrances to the trail, confusing trail users.
Aaron Sweet and Melissa Hodge walk the Hetch Hetchy Trail at Longbridge Drive on Tuesday. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission recently added“No trespassing” signs to many of the entrances to the trail, confusing trail users. etracy@modbee.com

San Francisco gets to run its water pipeline and high-voltage transmission lines through Modesto, and Modesto gets an easement for a paved walking and bicycling path along the right of way.

That’s been the deal for decades, but signs recently posted at several trail entrances have given some residents pause.

Within the past few months, “No trespassing” signs have been posted on the chain-link fence that flanks either side of the trail when it intersects with a street.

“I feel dangerous,” Aaron Sweet joked as he walked hand-in-hand with his fiancée, Melissa Hodge, along the trail Tuesday.

The signs are at more than half of the street entrances to the 2.5-mile Hetch Hetchy Trail in north Modesto.

The signs have “ominous references to the penal code and prosecution,” Modesto resident Tim Moran wrote in an email to me last month.

“Is there a concern over electromagnetic waves from the power lines?” he asked. “Why are there fence openings, obviously designed for bicycle entry, right next to the ‘No trespassing’ signs? I’m tempted to suggest something snarky, like it’s a continuation of the city of San Francisco’s policy of building an attractive lake in a national park and then posting it ‘No swimming, fishing or boating.’”

He’s referring, of course, to Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park, which supplies water to San Francisco and several other Bay Area cities. The water is delivered through a 167-mile aqueduct that runs across the San Joaquin Valley.

The city of Modesto has asked us to redo the signs. They will be changed so it’s clearer for those using the bike path.

Alison Kastama, communications director, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission

In the 1990s, Modesto secured an easement to build the trail along the Hetch Hetchy right of way. It starts at Sisk Road north of Rumble Road and ends at Semallon Drive north of West Union Avenue.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission doesn’t want people near its power lines east of Semallon or along the right of way in the county, said communications director Alison Kastama. She said the utility has had issues with transients camping on its property and recently posted about 100 signs to discourage it, but didn’t intend to keep people off the trail.

When I asked police Chief Galen Carroll about the signs Thursday, he began inquiring with city staff about getting them removed. He said illegal camping is an issue throughout Modesto, and that he and the city are trying to address it with “No camping” signs. He said the verbiage and penal codes cited on the “No trespassing” signs are inappropriate for a public trail.

“The city of Modesto has asked us to redo the signs,” Kastama said. “They will be changed so it’s clearer for those using the bike path.”

She said the signs will be replaced within the next few months, but in the meantime, feel free to ignore them at the trail – Modesto police won’t be enforcing them.

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