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Modesto incorporates old rails into new trails
The Modesto Virginia Corridor is a 2 mile linear park, trail and recreational destination that runs through Modesto. - photo by Brooke Borba

MODESTO — Folks looking for a hiking trail in the Central Valley have plenty of rural areas to choose from, and now have a more urban option also. The City of Modesto embarked on a new project designed to transform a piece of history into a physical fitness trail.

The Tidewater Southern Railway, a subsidiary of the Western Pacific Railroad in 1910, was originally built as an “interurban” system, connecting from Stockton to Escalon. The system had three interurban electric passenger cars and two steeplecab electric freight locomotives.

From 1916 to 1918, the railway extended towards other cities, including Turlock, Hilmar and Manteca. Unlike other interurban railroads in California, the former railway retained the highest percentage of operation. Caboose 305 and 308 are currently preserved in Modesto.

The City of Modesto conceived a new use for the interurban structure in 1999, following a petition to abandon the tracks by the Union Pacific Railroad. The structure was renamed the Modesto Virginia Corridor, and now acts as a 2-mile linear park, trail and recreational destination to promote walking, biking, and skating throughout the city.

The 4.2-mile rail-trail project is expected to be done within the next few years, and is partly constructed between Granger and College avenues in Modesto. The trail will eventually bridge with three other trails: the Hetch-Hetchy, the Dry Creek Corridor and the Tuolumne River Regional Parkway.  Its central location makes it a key component for urban dwellers.

Project coordinator Bob Ford was instrumental to the trail’s construction, and has already seen it being used daily.

“We see close to hundreds of people using it on any given day. Maybe even thousands on a nice spring day,” said Ford. “It is through the heart of Modesto, and is a joint multi-use trail. It connects to neighborhoods, shopping centers, and seven schools. The main satisfaction we have is that the public really enjoys it and uses it.”

Overhead lighting, a large bridge over Briggsmore Avenue, and scattered benches surround the linear trail. Poppies, lipines, and other clovers were also planted as part of a non-irrigated hydro seed wildflower mix to give the trail vibrancy.

Cortez Flores took advantage the weather and spring break vacation to supervise a bike ride with his daughter Mya, and her friend Jelani Reyes earlier this week.

“It’s a pleasant trail,” said Flores. “We just came from one of the local parks. We just needed some time to get out of the house and enjoy the weather. This trail is very convenient, and we were able to go to local parks and get ice cream.”

“I like the trail,” Mya said. “I like going up the bridge, even if it burns my legs to go fast. Coming down the hill is easier.”

Many nearby residents looking to squeeze in a little physical fitness are excited to see the project near completion. Skateboarders, dog walkers, and even tricycles are all seen throughout the 2 mile span.

“I can’t wait until they continue this trail further,” said jogger Gloria Sanchez. “It’s opened up to a lot of people, and we can use it to get across another part of town easily. This is just what we needed in our neighborhood.”

209 staff reporter