Amy Augustine, contract planner with Angels Camp, remembers when the idea for an established walking and bicycling trail along Angels Creek first came about.

“It was a meeting of the general plan planning committee, at the fire station in Angels Camp, back in 2005,” Augustine said Tuesday at her office in Sonora. “We were drafting the general plan and a member of the committee said, ‘It would really be great to do something with Angels Creek, to make it a centerpiece, to make a trail.”

Thirteen years later, a lot of planning and discussions have taken place, and some funding has been secured. Augustine says city leaders hope to begin work on the first phase, which will be 1.25 miles from Tryon Park to where Finnegan Lane meets Greenhorn Creek Road.

The cost for phase one will be about $1.3 million to $1.4 million. Augustine says it’s expected to be costly because phase one will require construction of a bridge for pedestrians and bicyclists next to the existing Highway 4 bridge at the junction with Highway 49 in downtown Angels Camp.

Augustine says the hope is to have phase one work completed and the trail open to the public by Dec. 31, 2021.

Right now the project has $707,013 in Congestion Management and Air Quality funding first earmarked in 2014-15. There’s $415,000 more in 2019-20, then $253,687 in 2020-21, followed by $415,000 more in 2021-22 and $415,000 again in 2022-23. The CMAQ total approved in April 2015 is $2,205,700.

Other phases of the trail include a north phase that could extend from Angels Creek to Stelte Park, follow Kurt Drive, then leave the creek and proceed to Murphys Grade Road and terminate near Bret Harte High School.

On the south end, Angels Camp city leaders hope to secure permissions, easements and other property rights to extend the trail all the way to where Angels Creek flows into New Melones Reservoir and becomes a tributary to the Stanislaus River.

The trail plan has always been intended to be a phased project, Augustine said. City leaders have relied on a 72-page master plan since January 2012.

Walking from Tryon Park on Monday, it was sunny and warm and it felt like a perfect autumn afternoon with air temperatures in the 70s.

A few steps along the creek, past the Tryon Park parking area and before you pass Joe Carley Memorial Firehouse on the other side of the road, a great blue heron decided to take wing from out of the creekbed.

The massive water bird followed the course of some overhead utility lines and looped back to perch high in a massive evergreen tree, possibly a hemlock, directly above the creek and with a clear view of the water moving below.

Further down the path of the proposed trail, it will cross over Highway 49 and follow Finnegan Lane through a neighborhood of homes and gardens.

There’s a faded, wooden public footbridge over the creek at one point. A plaque on a stone monument at one end calls it Angels Foot Bridge, says it dates to the 1890s, and it was built to provide a crossing for children who lived south of Angels Creek to reach Angels Grammar School.

The plaque states the bridge washed out in a flood in 1909, it got rebuilt in 1916, and people decided it was no longer needed in 1950 when Angels Grammar School joined Altaville Grammar School as Mark Twain Union Elementary. The bridge was condemned in 1966 and a community campaign was organized to save it. Ruby Parlor with the Native Daughter of the Golden West donated money to rebuild the bridge again in 1995. The plaque says it was dedicated in May 1998.

Augustine said she didn’t know about the foot bridge and its proximity to the proposed trail, but she was delighted to hear about it.

Further on down Finnegan Lane, there are no more homes visible and private property signs posted on barbed wire fencing. Some of those store-bought signs include messages like, “No Trespassing” and “No Parking” and “Danger! Keep Out!” There are also hand-drawn signs on cardboard stating “Private Property Respect Our Fence, Third time we had to fix this month” and “Livestock Do Not Open!”

Access to the creek opens up a bit further down the road, just beyond where tangled, thorny brambles of blackberries are ripening. Shaded sections of the creek are especially inviting. A few more steps down there’s blue spray paint a fridge-sized boulder next to the creek. Then Finnegan Lane reaches a curve, and there’s a locked, fenced shed belong to the city wastewater treatment system.

This is near the planned phase one terminus at Greenhorn Creek Road. From there it’s easy to see how to follow Angels Creek on down to New Melones, but the land is fenced there.

Augustine emphasized Tuesday the plan is proposed, on paper and it’s a work in progress. Debbie Ponte with Destination Angels Camp also said Monday some parts of the proposed trail do not yet exist.

There’s already a 2.8-mile Angels Creek loop trail at New Melones, part of a network of trails in the Glory Hole area. If completed as planned, the Angels Creek Trail from Angels Camp will eventually connect with this network.

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.com or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.

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