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Taking Mantecas bike path system to the next level
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The Tidewater Bikeway rates as a true visionary move made by Manteca civic leaders in the 1990s.

It occupies what was once an abandoned rail line that was a breeding ground for weeds, an impromptu dump for some, and a place for criminal activity for others.

The idea to take the 3.4 mile swath that cut through the middle of Manteca and turn it into a bike path was offensive to more than a few folks at the time.

Some argued that it would simply breed more trouble and that the “frequent” street crossings - there are just seven in 3.4 miles - would lead to tragic consequences of mixing traffic with bicyclists at various cross streets.

Then there were those that argued that it should be some type of “expressway” to make it easier for people to travel across Manteca in their cars.

Elected leaders stayed the course. Naturally many panned the original asphalt noting how “ugly” and uninviting it was. It didn’t help things that a dispute with the contractor delayed Manteca accepting the bike path after it was done for more than a year. As a result tumbleweeds choked the 34 acres. The city did not abate the weeds themsleves because technically that would have meant they were accepting the project as completed. That would have left city taxpayers saddled with costly corrections to the project.

It got so bizarre that at one point the fire chief at the time was threatening to issue a citation to the mayor for the city failing to abate weeds.

That was followed by another misstep in the form of an almost new but dysfunctional water well pump that failed. It required parts that were not readily available just as the weather started heating up. The result was a large stretch of landscaping died.

Today those miscues are behind the city. In addition the strength of the Crossroads Grace Community Church’s effort to serve the community allowed the city to plant hundreds of trees along the Moffat leg of the Tidewater that had been barren for years except for the occasional tumbleweed.

The Tidewater today stands as a shining example of Manteca’s visionary thinking as well as follow through. Yes, it’s been a long road but things cost money. There are those who would slam the city for not making improvements faster but Manteca has made almost all of the improvements without impacting the general fund. Measure K sales tax earmarked for such endeavors picked up the bulk of the tab once the city had acquired the 34 acres.

The Tidewater is more than just a bike path used by walks, joggers, and bicyclists. It is a linear park with large sections already maturing nicely with landscaping.

It is unusual when it comes to most bike paths in California as it actually goes places that people access in their everyday lives. That gives it more depth than just being a recreational facility.

Its location cutting through the heart of the city allows people in neighborhoods to use it to access the library and downtown. Thanks to extensions you can also reach newer retail in Spreckels Park plus places like Woodward Park.

The Tidewater is the spine of what ultimately will be a 20.6-mile loop of Manteca. That loop also has the potential for a number of spurs such as Wellington Avenue that reaches Woodard Park as well as Spreckels Avenue to reach Target and other retail.

While there are still improvements that can be made to existing bicycle paths, it is time to pick up the tempo and start taking the bike path system to the next level .

Councilman Vince Hernandez’ idea for some type of standing committee to not just identify future extensions of the system but to make sure the city stays on task when opportunities arrive to complete another segment of the loop system is a concept that makes sense. He also would like to see such a committee encourage even more use of the trails.

That committee could enlist volunteer support to help maintain segments not covered in landscape maintenance districts which is primarily the Tidewater portion.

It could also start building relationships with other like-minded people in Ripon and Lathrop to bring the three communities together to create a true alternative system to get around on pedal power to jobs and amenities. Such an effort could also put in place a recreation gem that no other area in the valley has — a regional Class I bike path system. Separated bike paths could easily be part of greenbelts designed to keep the three communities from ultimately becoming one big blob.

Hernandez’ idea to take the Manteca bike path system to the next level is definitely worth pedaling.