Jeff Jardine

Antsy folks, others blaze Modesto trail that’s not ready for prime time yet

This section of the Virginia Corridor Trail northern extension in Modesto remained closed on Wednesday.
This section of the Virginia Corridor Trail northern extension in Modesto remained closed on Wednesday. aalfaro@modbee.com

From the emails and voicemails:

TRAIL BLAZERS? – For some impatient folks and a few others who came along after, the long-awaited northern leg of the Virginia Corridor Trail opened for several hours, at least.

Loren Holt, the parks projects manager for the city of Modesto, confirmed what some readers emailed to tell me Monday morning: That the chain-link fencing intended to keep people out had been moved aside, and people were using the trail, which is supposed to be closed.

He was among those who drove by and, as he drew nearer, saw the fencing had been moved.

“I knew this wasn’t going to be good,” Holt said.

Indeed, Modestans Nancy and Tom Weiss parked at Bowen, expecting to take an early-morning walk on the southern leg as usual.

“But I looked across the street and saw that the fence was open,” Nancy Weiss said.

So, like several others, they went north. Some of the plastic remained. Other sections of the fence, Weiss said, were open.

“Not completely,” she said. “But not where you had to squeeze through, either. We wondered whether someone just got irritated.”

By midmorning, the contractor – Cal Valley Construction of Fresno – put the fencing back into place.

The trail is no closer to opening than it was in March, when The Bee’s Kevin Valine detailed the problems keeping it closed. The contractor had sloped the trail to prevent water from puddling (in those rare instances when we get measurable rain). But that slope, city officials said, exceeded the specifications and might create problems for wheelchairs, skateboards and some bicycles.

The contractor used a grinder to lessen the slope, but it left the surface too rough. Weiss said the trail still feels rough. “Or rougher than the other (southern) one,” she said

After some discussion, contractor and city agreed Cal Valley would replace the asphalt on the path at an estimated cost to the taxpayers of $200,000. But they continue to hash out what remains to be done.

“We’re still working on making sure it meets specifications,” Holt said.

A frequent question by readers: Why not let people use the trail until they settle on how to fix it? Holt told The Bee that by opening it, it would put the city’s legal standing at risk, implying to the contractor that the work was completed to the city’s satisfaction.

In the meantime, Holt said the city now has $700,000 in state funding to begin planning the seventh phase of the trail that will include a bridge over Standiford Avenue.

SUPER (MARKET) SERVICE – Last week, Steve Gass and his girlfriend, Elsa McCoy, took the bus from their residence near Coffee Road and Floyd Avenue to the Save Mart at Floyd and Oakdale Road.

Both are blind. When they entered the store, the clerk asked if they would need help with their shopping and found a courtesy clerk to assist them.

“He towed us around the store, and when we checked out, he asked, ‘Do you need help out to your car?’ ” Gass said. The clerk no doubt assumed they had a ride awaiting them in the parking lot.

“No, we take the bus,” Gass replied.

The bus stop is at the opposite end of the parking lot, along Floyd Avenue and more than 100 yards away from the supermarket. The courtesy clerk, Chris Cruz, told his boss he wanted to help them to the stop.

“The manager said, ‘You don’t even have to ask,’ ” Gass said.

Cruz took them all the way to the stop, helped them get situated and placed their grocery bags under their feet where they could easily find them when the bus arrived. Gass was so impressed that he called with hopes of saying thanks publicly.

“Lots of blind people are quick to pick out when somebody does something bad,” Gass said. “We just thought they should hear it when someone does something good.”

HELPING SHRINERS HOSPITAL – Every Saturday a group of teens, including some from 4-H, raises money for the Sacramento Children’s Shriners Hospital by having a table at the Modesto Certified Farmers’ Market on 16th Street downtown. “It’s cool to work with kids who want to do good things,” said Patsy Laws who, with daughter Valerie Bunch, helps organize. They’ve made cupcakes, hand-made Mother’s Day cards, visors and crafts. This Saturday is no exception. Kids can decorate sand pails, visors, totes and other items at no charge. They merely set out a collection jar for contributions that will benefit hospital programs.

“We’ve had older people come up and say, ‘My granddaughter went to Children’s Shriners,’ and they’ll put in a donation,” Laws said.

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