Here are one article and 2 op-ed on the Vargas Plateau published in the Argus over the last couple months.
Deal appears to open Fremont park appears likely
By Matthew Artz
Posted: 03/19/2010 08:16:54 PM PDT
Updated: 03/20/2010 06:38:56 PM PDT
FREMONT — A lawsuit that has delayed the opening of a regional park in the hills above Fremont for nearly two years is close to being settled, representatives for both sides say.
Although East Bay Regional Park District Assistant General Manager Mike Anderson wouldn't speculate on an opening date for Vargas Plateau Regional Park, he and one of the residents who sued to keep the park from opening say a deal is likely in the works to open the park and improve safety on access roads.
"It looks like the park district has made an offer we can all live with," said Jack W. Balch, one of two nearby residents who filed suit against the district in 2008. "We're just going through the details. It isn't finalized, but we don't think they'll be problems."
The lawsuit stated that the district was legally required to conduct a more extensive environmental review of the park project. Balch and other residents near the long-awaited hillside park said an influx of park users would create traffic nightmares and fire safety hazards on the two park access routes: Morrison Canyon Road and Vargas Road.
Morrison Canyon ranges in width from 10 to 14 feet and Vargas ranges from 9 to 16 feet. Both roads are narrower than city standards allow and both have blind corners.
A proposed settlement, officials said, would involve the city making improvements to the most dangerous sections of Vargas, which terminates at Morrison Canyon Road, before the park district opens the 1,030-acre park with just a parking lot for about 25 cars off Morrison Canyon.
Additional park amenities that would draw more visitors, such as campsites and more parking, wouldn't be installed until more extensive improvements were made to the access roads, Anderson said.
City officials wouldn't comment on road improvements because the matter is still tied up in litigation.
A 2008 voter-approved park district bond measure provides $7.2 million to "expand (the) park and develop public access," according to a city report. The bond also provides nearly $10 million for the city to spend on park-related projects of its choosing, although the city already has allocated $2.7 million of that for tot lots.
District officials and the plaintiffs soon will visit the access roads to look at some of the improvements that need to be made, Anderson said.
"I think being optimistic is probably appropriate at this stage," he said.
Answer from an angry resident.
My Word: Officials overlooked important factor in Fremont park opening
By Bob Garcia
Posted: 04/09/2010 12:01:00 AM PDT
I'M writing in regard to the March 21 article, "Deal near to open Fremont park."
The Vargas Plateau property was purchased many years ago for millions of tax dollars by our elected officials. The property is, and always has been, located in a remote area.
In 2008, it was discovered, after a lawsuit was filed, that the roads were unsafe.
Let's look at this a bit closer. In 1876, the citizens of what is now Fremont petitioned the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to build a new road. The old deeds of the purchase of the road are "from the tree on the right to the tree on the left," and "so many chains this way and that way, etc."
The road was built up Morrison Canyon to the Garcia ranch, 1.5 miles up from what is now Overacker Avenue (the main highway at the time). The road was needed to get the peas and potatoes down to Mowry Landing and into San Francisco.
The road was then built up to the Sunol Pony Express Station at the end of the current Morrison Canyon Road. Vargas Road was added as more ranches came into the picture.
Our city and elected officials have overlooked an important factor in regard to the opening of the park, that is the section of Morrison Canyon from Vargas to the bottom of the hill. This section, if gated, locks off the park to Fremont residents. They will have to use I-680 to Vargas.
If the elected officials put their heads in the sand and ignore the problem of this section of the road, they will open the city of Fremont to many more lawsuits.
In 1956, the city was given Morrison Canyon Road, and it is the only road in the city that the county deeded to the city in this manner. This road has not changed much over the past 130 years but the valley below has, with many more people and traffic using the road.
The article went on to say that all parties can live with the outcome of the lawsuit. I'm an owner of a quarter-mile of frontage along the most hazardous section of Morrison Canyon, yet no one has tried to purchase this section of the road from Canyon Heights to the top of the hill.
There are more than two residents living in the Morrison Canyon Hill Area. The importance of one voice — of each of our voices — can make a difference. No longer can we be silent. Our silence is giving consent to what is going on with the Vargas Plateau, Morrison Canyon Road (top to bottom), and Vargas Road.
Bob Garcia, a landowner and 35 year resident in Morrison Canyon, was born and raised in Fremont. His family came to the area in 1869. He is a retired professional educator who worked in the Newark Unified School District for 30 years.
Finally, the answer from 2 EBRPD board members.
My Word: Newest gem in East Bay Regional Park system, Vargas Plateau, will be safe
By Carol Severin and Ayn Wieskamp
Posted: 05/07/2010 12:01:00 AM PDT
THE RECENT opinion piece featuring Vargas Plateau in The Argus was right on target in its opening paragraph. It stated, "East Bay Regional Park board of directors are pressing to open the newest gem in the system, the park at the top of the Morrison Plateau in Fremont "... the park views will rival those of Mission Peak trails."
This is absolutely true.
With 1,030 acres of open space and miles of trails, Vargas Plateau is indeed a gem with breathtaking views of the Bay Area, and its opening to the public will add another stunning opportunity to embrace life outdoors for the thousands of residents in Fremont and southern Alameda County.
We have long awaited the day when this beautiful piece of land purchased more than a decade ago could open to the public. But like many of our existing parklands, the process for opening such open space like Vargas Plateau is sometimes a lengthy collaboration among several agencies to ensure the security and safety of park visitors within park boundaries and along the adjacent access roads that will take you there.
After years of discussions, we're pleased to be close to resolution of concerns raised during the park's planning process. Safety of the public and neighbors adjacent to the open space is the most important aspect to our management of any park facility.
Since 1934, EBRPD (East Bay Regional Park District) has been a good neighbor and steward in 65 parkland communities throughout the East Bay. Vargas Plateau is, and will be, no different.
The city of Fremont and EBRPD have been working jointly to address traffic safety concerns and are committed by joint agreement to cooperatively undertake appropriate roadway improvements that will be phased in before both initial park trail access, and to the long-term development of picnic and other park facilities at the site.
EBRPD is also committed to providing alternative access to Vargas Plateau for Fremont residents that does not involve either Vargas or Morrison Canyon Roads, and is moving forward in this regard as well.
Public access to Vargas Plateau is a long-standing interest of the community, and funding to provide for initial improvements to this public land was included in the district's voter-approved 2008 Measure WW Parks Bond measure.
The planning process for the park has been lengthy and has provided a good dialogue between local residents, EBRPD, the city of Fremont and members of the public seeking access to open space and trails.
It is understandable that neighbors may be unsettled about the public's access to what has been, until now, their private green space. However, our long experience shows that neighboring property owners gain the most from their local parkland through protection of their open vistas, increased property values and personal access to popular parks.
The initial park development is worthy of good discussion, and the current plan has benefited from the inclusion of safety measures related to enhanced fire management, roadway widening and similar improvements.
Parks are for everyone to experience. From the inland hills of Mission Peak, Pleasanton Ridge or Vargas Plateau to the shores of Coyote Hills or Hayward shoreline, your visit to a regional park can literally be in your own backyard, as the neighbors of Vargas Plateau will soon be able to attest to.
We look forward to sharing this new gem with you soon. Watch the district's website, www.ebparks.org, for an opening date in the near future.
Ayn Wieskamp represents Ward 5, south and eastern Alameda County, including Ardenwood, Coyote Hills, Mission Peak and Sunol/Ohlone Parks. Carol Severin represents Ward 3, Castro Valley, Hayward, Union City, and a portion of Fremont, parks in her area include Quarry Lakes, Vargas Plateau and Garin/Dry Creek Parks.
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