The city government for Angels Camp is planning to close escrow Friday and complete a buy of 12 acres of former ranchland on Angels Creek, a key piece of property in a proposed plan to create an Angels Creek Trail system that could one day reach to New Melones Reservoir.

The 12 acres south of Finnegan Lane is the next-to-last piece of land the city of Angels Camp hopes to purchase to complete the proposed trail. The final hoped-for parcel is about 20 acres further south on Angels Creek close to the edge of the federal property surrounding New Melones Reservoir.
The property includes a century-old, man-made diversion dam dating to around 1915 that creates a waterfall. People have been walking down the creek to that old diversion dam to swim and fish for decades.

Angels Camp City Administrator Melissa Eads said Wednesday she could not disclose the purchase until Friday.

Amy Augustine, the Sonora-based contract planner for Angels Camp, said Wednesday Angels Camp is buying the 12 acres from a man named Coppes who inherited the property. There’s a pump station close to a corner of the property.

The pump station belongs to Greenhorn Creek subdivision and it conveys treated effluent to be sprinklered on open fields owned by the city of Angels Camp south of the 12 acres.

“We’re really excited to secure this property,” Augustine said Wednesday in a phone interview. “It’s a critical link to complete this trail.”

The proposed trail will stretch about five linear miles from Tryon Park to New Melones, if it’s approved and completed as designed so far. Augustine remembers when the idea for an established walking and bicycling trail along Angels Creek first came about, a general plan committee meeting in 2005.

The current proposal, drafted in 2012, included input from property owners, Augustine said. All of the trail will be on public land once all the parcels are purchased.

A first phase is expected to 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. The estimated cost will be about $1.3 million to $1.4 million.

Augustine said in October 2018 the hope is to have phase one work completed and the trail open to the public by Dec. 31, 2021. Money for the project includes $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.

Debbie Ponte, a former Angels Camp councilperson and mayor, now with Destination Angels Camp Development Corporation, says phase one of the Angels Creek Trail goes from Tryon Park to Highway 49 and Vallecito Road, and phase two goes from Finnegan Lane at Highway 49 a couple miles down Finnegan Lane.

“This new parcel is part of phase three,” Ponte said. “Phase three will extend the trail when it’s complete all the way to New Melones.”

There’s a 72-page Angels Creek Trail Master Plan online that dates to 2012 with updates in 2016, but promoters and backers of the trail are still in “the first initial planning stages,” Ponte said Wednesday in a phone interview.

Ponte said she and city people and a person from an engineering firm hired to implement phases of the proposed trail want more public input on their plan, so they plan to walk the trail from Tryon Park to Finnegan Lane on Thursday, July 11.

They plan to try to talk to people who live next to the trail and near the trail, to ask about concerns and ideas and suggestions they might have. Later that same day, there’s an open house meeting scheduled 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. July 11 at Joe Carley Memorial Firehouse, 1404 Vallecito Road in Angels Camp, where the public is invited to look at proposed trail ideas and share their views.

Ponte said Wednesday this next round of planning is expected to be completed within nine months.

“Then we go before the city council, with input from the community and our proposed plan, and we’ll seek city council approval,” Ponte said. “Once we have an approved plan, we’ll seek additional grants and donations to build what needs building.”

There are no estimates for the costs of remaining construction as of now, Ponte said. There are still a lot of details to be worked out.

Unresolved questions for the proposed trail include where restrooms and trash cans will be located, whether there will be barrier fencing to keep people off private property and on the trail, what kind of signage will be on the trail, where to situate areas where people can lock up their bikes, access to New Melones, and how that is going to work.

Most visitors to New Melones are required to pay day-use fees or pay for annual passes. Ponte said it remains to be seen how access to New Melones will work for walkers and bicyclists and others who will use the Angels Creek Trail when it is complete.

“We have to work with our federal partners to decide what access for people on the trail, what that look like,” Ponte said. “Now the city has this new property in escrow, and it’s to enhance our parks system, we have to decide what this 12 acres is going to look like. Do we just want the trail to go through it? Do we want to allow equestrian uses? Do we want to build sports fields there?”

Ponte said her emphasis right now is on planning and seeking input from neighborhoods close to the trail and from the greater Angels Camp community.

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

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