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Moffat project is more than just planting 250 trees
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In better times proceeding with the planting of 250 trees along the Tidewater Bikeway’s Moffat Boulevard leg would be a no brainer.

These are not good times. It is why the Manteca City Council Tuesday needs to think long and hard about spending $25,000 to move the project forward plus $5,000 annually for maintenance.

It won’t be an easy decision.

Here are the facts.

•The money to install the irrigation and buy the trees – as well as provide annual maintenance – is coming from the local transportation fund that is restricted to bicycle and pedestrian related projects. Yes, the money the city gets can continue to shrink each year. It can’t, regardless, be used to balance the general fund. The Moffat leg of the bikeway is unfinished. If the city has another pressing bicycle or pedestrian project that is a higher priority that does not have secured funding, then the council needs to kill the project. If there is no other higher priority, the money should be spent instead of hoarded.

•The landscaping proposed is not overkill or high maintenance. After a few years of getting established, the trees will require less work which in turn reduces annual costs.

•Manteca’s leaders need to look toward the future. The Moffat corridor is the future link not just between downtown and Spreckels Park but also the Austin Road Business Park and even the Oak Valley Community Bank tower that is on hold. The trees aren’t just an investment in park landscaping as the Tidewater is essentially a linear park. It will provide a visual barrier to the backside of the Manteca Industrial Park plus the Union Pacific Railroad tacks. It also will soften noise.

•The trees will enhance the appeal and therefore the value of City of Manteca owned land along Moffat for future development.

•Trees do not grow overnight. The nicest thing about Woodward Park was the planting of hundreds of trees – primarily sycamores – in advance of actual work site. There were numerous shade trees in place long before the park was done.

•As the 250 trees mature, they will continue to change the character of the abandoned former Highway 99 entrance to Manteca that fell on bad times to one that is heading toward rebirth as a vibrant residential, commercial and business corridor.

•It is not simply a tree project along a bikeway. It is an investment in older neighborhoods. It dovetails into the downtown revitalization. It is a piece of the puzzle to re-energize the city’s central core to encourage higher density by replacing older homes with new projects. It is tie-in to the “new Manteca” that is going to go up into the Austin Road Business Park.

Make no doubt about it. These are challenging economic times. City leaders, though, must have the moxie to keep Manteca moving forward when they can without crippling basic services.

As long as the bicycle-pedestrian portion of the local transportation fund can be used to maintain the trees, it makes sense to proceed.

The added bonus of instilling community pride by having hundreds of Manteca residents help plant the trees is a bonus.

The tree project also offers Manteca an opportunity to enlist community volunteers to help monitor the trees during the first critical years to make sure they do not run into problems from irrigation foul-ups. It would be akin to a Neighborhood Watch with eyes helping the manpower strapped parks department to stay on top of problems.