The Truckee River Trail through Reno attracts residents and visitors alike. The river environment can be a source of peace and rejuvenation. It is more than just a water supply for the cities; it is a true recreational resource providing a scenic trail throughout urban Reno and Sparks all along the clear, flowing waters of the Truckee River. The community has invested to make this trail a treasure for all.
Trouble in river city
The Truckee River Trail is also the default location for many of the area’s homeless and graffiti taggers. Many of us who advocated for creating and expanding the recreational trail along the river to connect the urban environment to the natural environment of the Truckee River never foresaw the extent to which the trail would become a literal semi-permanent campground with ever increasing graffiti tagging. People I’ve spoken to tell me they avoid the Truckee River trail downriver of Idlewild Park due to the urban troubles intruding into and taking over the natural environment with trash and camps and tagging. The encampments, when “cleared out” quickly return in the same or new locations. Some trash often remains scattered across the banks of the river – bottles, wrappers, bags, blankets, baskets, etc. – regardless whether the site is occupied by the campers or not.
I’m revisiting the issue of encampments, trash and graffiti again in the hope that we can change our approach to keeping the river clean and stop pollution from the encampments. Right today there is not much reduction in the encampments, trash and graffiti that I observed and wrote about 3 years ago. Below are scenes along the Truckee River from downtown Reno to Greg Street taken in late September of last year. [I’ve digitally edited the graffiti so that it is not identifiable; this reduces the “in your face” aspect of the tags, but prevents advertising it.]
Truckee River Trail needs help
As the City Council’s and County Commissioner’s try to deal with the issue of homelessness, the Truckee River Trail impacts continue to mount. The river environment becomes an unfortunate camping ground and restroom for hundreds of people seeking temporary or permanent shelter along it. The issues that surround homelessness likely leads to much of the trash found along the river banks. The lack of regular pickup of trash and cleaning up discarded items of clothing, food containers, makeshift shelters also encourages graffiti taggers to add to the atmosphere of neglect and abandonment. An Insufficient number and desperately inadequate restroom facilities throughout the urban trail portion contribute to the pollution and inhumane conditions.
Can our Council’s and Commissioner’s focus their attention to the daily negative impacts to the Truckee River – throughout its urban reach – by funding new staff for clean up efforts? How about if the community funded the installation of more restrooms? And clean and refresh those restrooms 3 or more times per day and keep them open at least from 6AM to 10PM everyday?
The Truckee River is the community’s lifeline for our water supply but so much more. It deserves more attention from our elected leaders to fund clean up crews on a daily basis – not just when a homeless “clear out” is in the works.
The Reno City Council unanimously approved using a 10,660 square foot portion of Brodhead Park adjacent to the Truckee River for an apartment complex (see our earlier post with maps and photos here). Below is today’s announcement from the City of Reno.
“Council approves Brodhead Park Boundary Line Adjustment and Improvement Agreement
“J.10.1 – Council unanimously approved a Boundary Line Adjustment and Improvement Agreement to convey a vacant and undevelopable 10,660-square-foot portion of Brodhead Park between Wells Avenue and Park Street south of the Truckee River Bike Path to developer Riverside Park Apartments LLC, an affiliate of Hokulia Holdings LLC. The agreement requires the developer to use the property only for an infill apartment complex and convey to the City a 1,868-square-foot parcel adjacent to the Truckee River Bike Path and spend up to $75,000 for trailhead and bike path improvements.”
– January 25, 2017 Reno City Council Highlights
Brodhead Park is on the left side this image taken from the “old” Wells Ave bridge.
Overhead view of property (right-most parcel outlined in black-white) to be transferred to developers for a new apartment complex.
One-two-three – each of the local governments has now adopted the One Truckee River Plan when the Reno City Council unanimously voted for it on September 28. The Washoe County Commission and Sparks City Council approved the plan earlier this month. A year-long process established the plan with involvement of many citizens and groups and agencies from the community. The approved plan addresses numerous issues of the Truckee River (and tributaries) through the urban area of the Truckee Meadows.
Community members at the first “One Truckee River Plan” meeting in fall 2015.
The One Truckee River Plan phase one lays out goals for implementation as funding becomes available and a time-frame to accomplish them.
“Goal One: Ensure and protect water quality and ecosystem health in the Truckee River” has six specific objectives with more detailed sub-objectives dealing with storm water, watershed management, human impacts, trees and vegetation, wildlife habitat, and the proper functioning of the river and its floodplain lands to attenuate flooding.
“Goal Two: Create and sustain a safe, beautiful and accessible river connecting people and places” also has 6 specific objectives to address appropriate use and discourage illegal activities, promote planning and management between Cities and County, enhance public safety and access, ensure better transportation and restrooms, add public art and murals, provide housing for homeless and access to medical care as an alternative to living on the river.
“Goal Three: Create an aware and engaged community that protects and cares for the river” has five specific objectives to promote awareness and education of the river’s natural and cultural importance, increase student education and participation, add opportunities for activities for all, inspire culture of stewardship, and ensure easy access to information. The latter could include a Truckee River Visitors Center, a network of kiosks, encouraging collaboration to Native American cultural uses of the river, and opportunities to acquire land or protect natural or cultural resources.
“Goal Four: Create an aware and engaged community that protects and cares for the river” has four specific objectives to create a sustainable organizational model to make implementation of the plan successful, develop partnerships and raise awareness of the plan, bring in funding to support the plan, and improve our understanding of the condition of the Truckee River.
The One Truckee River Plan – OTR Plan – is probably the most comprehensive look, yet, at the needs of the Truckee River and how to make the river a better place to visit while improving water quality, safety, accessibility, and helping residents and visitors to understand what makes a river “healthy”.
One of the key features to the plan is community education and involvement and that is always a positive to help make changes in the river corridor where they are very much-needed today. The next phase of the plan will address downstream of the Truckee Meadows where rapid development in Washoe County and Storey County continue to threaten the river and its vegetative corridor. Phase two of the OTR Plan may well be more controversial since industrial interests have dominated recently with construction of huge new buildings, roads, and bridges.
For now, we can celebrate a new approach to benefit our area’s most important natural resource – the Truckee River.
The goals of the planning effort are to create a common vision for the river, provide for comprehensive planning, a forum for collaboration & communication, coordinated action, and funding.
The 9 stakeholder groups tackle issues that are often interrelated and multi-jurisdictional. Dealing with river health, public safety, and water quality, for example, involves at a minimum, understanding how to solve problems ranging from encampments along the River to increasing biodiversity of riparian species and finding funding to accomplish them.
Outcomes from the 9 issue areas go next to the core planning team which will be meeting in February 2016. OnStrategy will produce a draft plan based on stakeholder input by late spring 2016. Public open house meetings on the “One Truckee River” plan are now scheduled for mid to late summer 2016.
The Truckee River is a community asset – a treasure, really – for residents and visitors alike. Many of us spend weekends and as much free time we can get along its banks or in its water. For many residents and visitors the Truckee River Trail through both Reno and Sparks is the best way to spend a lunch hour or a day enjoying the river and absorbing a bit of nature running through our urban home. Truckee Meadows residents embraced the Truckee River and enabled the cities and county to create a trail that spans the valley from west to east right along the river. Recently, river projects at Reno’s downtown Whitewater Park and Spark’s Rock Park enhance river function and provide very popular recreation for kayakers, rafters, and swimmers. A downtown amphitheater at Wingfield Park provides a venue for performances and events enjoyed by thousands. The Trail is continuous from Ivan Sack Park in Reno all the way to Vista in Sparks.
Truckee River Trail winds along the Truckee River from Ivan Sack park in Reno to Vista in Sparks (Click to expand; map ends at McCarran Blvd)
We love the Truckee River
Most of us love the river and enjoy the river and depend on the river. We want community leaders to focus more on the river – orient buildings and activities to face the river to offer inviting spaces for all of us to experience and enhance our daily lives. And, we want the community to protect the river environment by planting and protecting the trees that line its shores, improve water quality by reducing and filtering storm runoff, improve recreational opportunities and public access for pedestrian and bicyclers, enhance fish passage by removing barriers and providing more space for the river, and create more open space along the river to protect the flood plain where it is still available as envisioned in the Community Flood Plan of 2005. More can and should be done to protect the Truckee Meadow’s most important natural feature.
Graffiti, trash, and vandalism … OH MY …
Take a walk or ride on the Truckee River Trail today. Depending on precisely where you end up along the Trail what you’ll be confronted with trash and vandalism and graffiti that not only detracts from the experience, but also keeps a good number of people from ever returning because they see the Trail itself as a threatening environment given to gang scrawls and homeless encampments. Reno, Sparks and Washoe County do try to maintain the Trail and clean up the mess left by taggers and gangs and vandals but it is an unrelenting problem requiring continual input of money and personnel. The homeless issue is a complex problem for our entire society, but it doesn’t mean that we should ignore the impact it has on the river Trail or environment. How do city and county leaders and all of us in the Truckee Meadows better address the continual damage to the Trail so that it becomes the asset it should be?
Over the spring and summer I took some photos along the Trail which helps to document the blight that confronts the Truckee River Trail walker or biker both in Sparks and Reno. To fix some of these problems will take a greater effort than has been available in the past. Are our leaders and community up to the challenge.