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Panel Weighs Study to Link 2 Bike Paths


The Ventura Parks and Recreation Commission tonight will consider approving a study that recommends the best way to link two bicycle paths into the largest continuous bike trail in Ventura County.

The proposed Ventura River Trail would connect the state's 3.5-mile Omer Rains Trail along the Ventura coastline with the county's 9.5-mile Ojai Valley Trail at Foster Park.

The trail would allow bikers, equestrians and hikers to go from the Pacific Ocean into the Ojai mountains without ever having to compete with automobile traffic.

"It's all contingent on the funding now. That's the major stumbling block," said Arnold La Verne, chairman of the Parks and Recreation Commission. "If it is shelved, it will have a priority on the shelf."

If the seven-member commission and the Ventura City Council approve the study, environmental impact studies would begin, city officials said.

According to the yearlong study, acquiring the land--the majority owned by Southern Pacific railroad--and developing the trail would cost $5.3 million to $9.3 million. Maintenance would cost about $32,500 annually. Most of the funds would come from state and federal grants, said Douglas Nelson, landscape architect and author of the report.

"This is totally achievable," Nelson said. "I think, realistically, there's a very good chance of paying for it."

Because the trail would be used by many commuting bicyclists, large amounts of federal and state transportation dollars would be available, Nelson said. City officials said about $500,000 has been set aside in the capital improvement budget for the trail.

A survey of residents attending a public workshop for the trail indicated that 21% would use the trail for commuting to work or school, and 18% would use it for errands, shopping or other short trips.

About 435,000 people would use the trail annually, with May through September the busiest period. The route travels north from the Pacific Ocean to Foster Park, east of the Ventura River. The connecting trail would also increase use of the Ojai Valley and Omer Rains trails, Nelson said.

The proposed trail in some parts would be broken into two segments: one for equestrians, and one for bikers and pedestrians. Some barrier fences between equestrian and bicycle treads are also proposed.

"When it's built, I think you would be quite amazed at how many people would utilize it," said Michael Steinbaum, a podiatrist who is an avid biker. "We tend to concentrate on automobile transportation. We don't really develop enough trails."

Mary Lou Schill, administrative assistant in the city's Parks and Recreation Department, said it would be at least five years before the trail would be built. The Ventura City Council will later consider the commission's recommendation.

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