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Church steps up to save trees

250 trees will go along Tidewater/Moffat

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Church steps up to save trees

RIGHT PHOTO: Billboards are the only visual relief in the city's linear park that constitutes the Moffat leg of the Tidewater Bikeway

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin/


POSTED July 22, 2009 2:49 a.m.

A volunteer army of 1,000 Christians will help start the transformation of the dreary and barren Moffat Boulevard leg of the Tidewater Bikeway.
Not only will the congregation provide manpower as an extension of its monthly community outreach program dubbed 2nd Saturday to plant 250 trees between Spreckels Avenue and a point south of Main Street, but they’ve committed to help with maintenance efforts for the first several years.


The City Council reversed itself Tuesday and unanimously embraced the grassroots efforts to improve the Tidewater segment by augmenting dwindling municipal staff with volunteer manpower.


“A church, in my mind, has a lot of credibility,” Councilman Vince Hernandez noted Tuesday.


Hernandez two weeks earlier voted against proceeding with the tree project along with fellow council members Debby Moorhead and Steve DeBrum.


Hernandez said he voted against it at the time as there was not a lot of background information given about the church’s proposal. Mayor Willie Weatherford noted there was some confusion created by lumping the project on the same agenda item with the dog park project that the council also voted down. The dog park would require a $15,000 annual hit on the city’s general fund for maintenance at a time Manteca faces anywhere from $2 million to $4 million in additional cuts depending upon what the California Legislature ends up doing with the proposed state budget deal.


The $33,000 to purchase the trees and stakes plus install the irrigation system is coming from gas tax funds collected and distributed to cities exclusively for pedestrian and bike path projects. It can be used for no other purpose. Assistant City Manager Karen McLaughlin noted there are no other projects in the city the money could be applied to and if the city doesn’t use it the state will take it.


The local transportation fund for pedestrian and bike path projects will also be used to help cover the annual maintenance estimated to be as high as $5,000.


Councilman John Harris noted that was on the high side due to the staff being cautious.


A private firm will install the irrigation system now that the city staff has been directed to prepare bid specifications.


Then on Sunday, Oct. 11, both services of the Crossroads Grace Community Church will be pre-empted by the “Taking it to the Streets” community outreach. City crews will help oversee the effort to plant the 250 trees.


After that, the church is offering to help with maintenance to a degree for several years. That could involve making periodic walking inspections of the planted trees to alert city staff of problems.


They also may end up doing any tree replacement plantings or irrigation repairs while the city would supply the trees and parts.


Such a contribution after the planting may not seem like much, but the first two to four years trees are planted are the most critical in terms of making sure they are getting enough water. Cutbacks to deal with the city deficit are stretching parks maintenance and tree crews thin.


Last year at this time, Manteca had 21 park maintenance workers and five members on the tree crew. Today, the workforce numbers are down to 14 park maintenance workers and two on the street tree crew.


Meanwhile, Manteca has added more street trees and even more park acreage. The city is now closing in on 50 parks with a cumulative 350 acres and has over 7,600 street trees to maintain.


In short, the city is going to get by with one third less park workers and three-fifths less tree workers. That is going to mean reductions in service levels in many places.


It is the result of Manteca’s whittling down the projected deficit for the fiscal year that started July 1 by $8 million – with at least another $2 million to go.


Much more elaborate landscaping than 250 trees was first proposed along the Moffat corridor when the 3.4-mile Tidewater was first created over a decade ago. Landscaping costs – including entrance plazas – had previously been estimated at $500,000.


The tree project would create a visual and sound barrier between the bike path and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks.


It would also enhance the appeal of the Moffat corridor where the City of Manteca is the largest property owner and is hoping to sell land to private developers for business and commercial use.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com

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