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Would Louisa Clapp view her namesake lane as ugly today?
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Louisa Clapp arrived in what is now known as Manteca in 1849 with her husband Noah.

The couple started a wheat farm. For the longest time they were the only ones living on a dirt road they dubbed Louisa Avenue.

Then one day the county put up signs. But instead of the signs reading “Louisa” it read “Louise” instead.

Years later when Mrs. Clapp was asked why she didn’t have the name corrected, she reportedly replied, “It’s just a little lane” and that “it would never amount to much.”

One would wonder what Mrs. Clapp would have to say about Louise Avenue some 164 years later.

That lane is now the second heaviest-traveled east-west corridor in Manteca. Instead of just being a little lane it stretches from North Ripon Road in the east to the heart of Lathrop west of Interstate 5. And instead of just one lone home being served there are thousands of people who use Louise Avenue to get to and from their homes.

Would Mrs. Clapp view Louise Avenue circa 2013 as ugly?

Back when she arrived here the ground Louise Avenue traverses today was part of a wind-blown sandy plain complete with tumbleweeds.

Yes, the asphalt can be uninviting and bleak looking at times. The sound walls are old and tired when compared to newer versions found elsewhere.

Mrs. Clapp besides being astonished at the changes 164 years has brought might argue that the Louise Avenue corridor between Airport Way and Main Street is fairly nice looking. The street isn’t dusty in summer nor is it muddy in winter.

She might take a different view on the city’s plans to spend $900,000 in federal funds. Mrs. Clapp might agree that it would improve the looks of the corridor even more but at the same time she might wonder why some view it as a tad on the ugly side.

Comparing the 1970s streetscape design standards to today is akin to putting the 1975 Chevy Impala next to the 2013 Chevy Impala. The 1975 model innovations were considered by most to be a vast improvement on the 1953 Chevrolet. There are those who today believe the 1975 Chevy Impala is still the cat’s meow despite being the equivalent of a boat on four wheels with Stone Age electronics and creature comforts that are Spartan in comparison to today’s models. They are quite OK with the 1975 Chevy Impala just like some are OK with what the Louise Avenue corridor looks like today.

Not everyone likes what is new and shiny the best.

It was asked by a Louise Avenue corridor resident at Tuesday’s Manteca City Council meeting regarding then proposed landscaped median project just who had an issue with the looks of the four-lane road and adjoining sound walls. They ventured a guess that whoever dubbed them “Manteca canyons” did not live in the immediate area.

Good guess. The term was coined by irate residents in the Cowell Station neighborhood to the immediate southwest of the Sierra High campus back in 2007. They did not like what they saw in a segment of Fishback Road that was being developed as a four-lane street at the time between Yosemite Avenue and Daniels Street. Someone in the City Council meeting audience said they didn’t want to see “the Manteca canyon” treatment in their neighborhood like what was along Union Road and Louise Avenue. It quickly became the neighborhood battle cry.

Manteca leaders revisited the entire rationale behind making Fishback a four-lane road. In the process they narrowed the remaining segments down to two lanes and place a landscaped median down the center of the street that was being developed immediately north of Daniels Street.

That median, for the record, doesn’t have any of the tree or shrubbery issues in landscaped medians that rightfully have concerned some Manteca residents such as Bill Goodwin.

Manteca municipal staff is now working on a beautification schematic for the Louise Avenue corridor that has minimal landscaped medians with new emphasis placed on employing ivy along sound walls and perhaps more trees and shrubs curbside.

Everyone may not agree whether it will make Louise Avenue more appealing to the eye. But it definitely will make the corridor safer.

If you doubt that drop by Fishback Road and spend some time watching traffic. Even though the segments are short, motorists tend to slow down while driving past the landscaped medians. But when it opens up to the equivalent of five lanes they pick up speed a bit even though a stop sign is up just ahead at Wawona Avenue.

The travel lanes on Louise would also be narrowed somewhat to accommodate bike lanes in both directions. In doing so, the city expects to see the same general reaction from drivers as what happened along Powers Avenue when they squeezed the lanes down to somewhat smaller widths by moving striped bike lanes a bit farther away from the curb.

Safety and not looks should be the primary concern. The city is taking one-time federal funds that can only be used for aesthetic enhancement of streets and using it in a manner that effectively makes the street safer for bicycles, pedestrians and motorists alike.

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209-249-3519.