History of the Kern River Parkway

Bill Cooper and Rich O'Neil, founders of the Kern River Parkway Foundation, in 1991

1972

Students from CSB ask for bike lane on Stockdale Highway to give safer access to the college.

1974 

Kern Council of Governments begins a transit study. A group requests that bike paths be studied as part of this. Supporters again ask for a bike lane along Stockdale Highway. Bike lane dedicated in October.

1975

The first section of Kern River bike path is approved, but there is much debate about the funding. Despite opposition from the Bakersfield Public Works Director, some City Councilmen, and some members of the Board of Supervisors, funding is allocated in December.

1976

The first section of bike path, from Manor St. to Beach Park, opens in March.

City of Bakersfield purchases rights and facilities of the Kern River in December.

1980

The “year 2000” Kern County General Plan is adopted. Concern for the Kern River receives the greatest response from the community.

1983

Completion of the environmental impact report for the 2800 acre Kern River/Bakersfield “recharge area”.

In June, Kern River Parkway Founder Bill Cooper and John Sweetser landed at Richmond Marina on San Francisco Bay, taking 11 days and 9 hours to kayak from Beach Park, Bakersfield, a 450 mile journey. Their path included the Kern River to Tulare Lake, up the Kings River through Fresno Slough to the San Joaquin River, then down the delta to San Francisco Bay. The longest land portage was 200 yards. Bakersfield Californian 6/16/83

Bill Cooper (left) and John Sweetzer in San Francisco Bay after kayaking from Beach Park in Bakersfield to Richmond harbor.

1984

The Kern River Parkway Committee organized the planting of 400 sycamores and cottonwood trees along Truxtun Extension. Bakersfield Californian 1/29/84

The major aspects of the Kern River Plan are no structures or development in the primary floodplain and no new development in the secondary floodplain. News from the Third. Supervisor Pauline Larwood April 1984

44 river-front lots on 113 acres west of Hart Park was rezoned from recreational forestry & light agriculture to estate-suburban residential by Kern County Supervisors. One condition is a 30’ public easement along the Kern River.

1985

On April 26, 1985, at 1:15 am, the Bakersfield City Council approved the Kern River Plan. Bakersfield Californian 4/26/85

On July 22, 1985, Kern County Board of Supervisors approved the Kern River Plan. Bakersfield Californian 7/23/85

Kern River Parkway Foundation becomes a non-profit 501(c)(3) business, with the Articles of Association filed on October 1, 1985.

In August 1985, 5th District Courts of Appeal upheld a decision that George Nickell’s Kern River Development Co. must grant a public easement along the banks of the Kern River in order to sell river-front homes. Bakersfield Californian 8/13/85

1987

Advertisement from the City of Bakersfield for input on the Kern River Parkway between Manor Street and Stockdale Highway. Bakersfield Californian 11/23/1987

Bill Cooper & Rich O'Neil in 1990, thanking Texaco for their generous donation of $250,000 for Parkway improvements.

1991

500 native trees to be planted on the Kern River bank between Truxtun Lake and the exercise course at Commercial Way. A $50,000 grant from the California Department of Water Resources is paying for much of the materials and trees. Bakersfield Californian 2/3/91
Bakersfield Beautiful Awards to the Kern River Parkway Foundation and to the Kern River Parkway the Public Landscape Award. Bakersfield Californian 4/16/91
New rest stop being built at CSUB/Stockdale Hwy to include four benches, drinking fountain, sprinkler system and 26 trees. Volunteers from Castle & Cook, Kern River Parkway Foundation, and Boy Scouts Troop 137 will plant the trees. Bakersfield Californian 12/13/91

1992

PG&E employees and others are volunteering to put in owl burrows in the 440 acre “Bakersfield Educational Studies Area” of the Kern River Parkway between Stockdale Highway and Coffee Road bridges. Bakersfield Californian 12/10/92

1993

Kern River Parkway Foundation saves Yokuts Park footpath from being replaced with grass. Bakersfield City was to plant grass all the way to the Kern River’s edge. Kern River Parkway Foundation objected. All then agreed to retain the buffer dirt path and riparian area with trees. Bakersfield Californian 1/3/93

Kern County Superior Court Judge Gerald Davis ruled George Nickel, Jr. owns the bed of the Kern River between Lake Ming and the Canyon, but the public has access to the river and river banks. Public access is limited to the Rancheria Bridge Access Point. Bakersfield California 4/27/93

10 year anniversary of Kern River Parkway Foundation founder Bill Cooper and John Sweetser kayaking from Beach Park, Bakersfield along the Kern River to other rivers in the San Joaquin Valley, and eventually to the San Francisco Bay. Bakersfield Californian 6/3/93

Based primarily on an attack against Lisa Jehle, there is a campaign to install call boxes every half-mile on the bikepath. Bakersfield Californian 10/4/93

1994

Jim Nickel proposes developing 568 acres adjacent to Kern River and running 1 ½ miles west of Rancheria Road. Jim Nickel originally offered a 10’ easement pedestrian or “fisherman’s trail”. Then a compromise was struck of the 10’ pedestrian trail, two separate 20’ trails within the Nickel property and a 100’ non-building buffer from the river. Bakersfield City staff revised their recommendation when Jack Hardisty, two city attorneys, and two council members walked the “reasonably easy” pedestrian path. Bakersfield Californian articles on 4/16/94 and 4/21/94

Article on Kern River Parkway Founders Rich O’Neal and Bill Cooper and their fight to preserve the Kern River Parkway over the years. Bakersfield Californian 4/16/94

Kern River Parkway Founders Bill Cooper and Rich O’Neil are fighting the City of Bakersfield for putting twists on various projects. Yokuts Park was supposed to be gated for groups calling in reservations. Otherwise parking was to be outside the levees (so cars would not cross the paved bikepath). The City of Bakersfield did not put up gates and wants to move the bikepath closer to the Kern River. “The lot inside the levee has become a scene of drug sales and prostitution,” said Rich O’Neil.

1995

Bakersfield City Council approved total of $455,206 to extend bike path from Manor Street to Fairfax Drive. Also approved application with Kern River Parkway Foundation for $15,000 grant for landscaping at Calloway Bridge. Bakersfield Californian 1/26/95

Beach Volleyball Courts being installed along Truxtun Avenue, west of Mohawk Street. Bakersfield Californian 3/1/95

1996

Kern River Parkway Foundation is planting 200-300 native trees in the Manor Street parking area, including live oak, valley oak, cottonwood and sycamore. The Foundation has planted 2400 trees along the parkway. Bakersfield Californian 1/17/1996

The Northeast Trails Plan approved by the Bakersfield City Council, which includes a foot trail along the river from Lake Ming to Rancheria Road. Jack Hardisty, Development Services Director said: “The foot trail along the river is already a foot trail along the river.” Bakersfield California 3/8/96

3 sections of bike path announced:
8/10’s of a mile from BC/Bluffs to China Grade Loop and frontage road for Alfred Harrell Highway (by Ethels);
Hart Park to CALM of 1.8 miles by end of August;
This fall widen China Grade Loop going north to Round Mountain Road with bike lanes on Round Mountain Road to Hart Park, including a 180’ bridge spanning the Kern River Bakersfield Californian 5/2/96

170 trees donated by Texaco were planted along Truxtun Extension by volunteers organized by the Kern River Parkway Foundation. Bakersfield Californian 12/8/96

2006

Bakersfield Californian publishes access points for the Kern River Parkway bikepath, which includes sites at Enos Lane, CSUB, Truxtun Lake, Yokuts Park, Beach Park, Kern County Museum, Manor Street, and Lake Ming. Bakersfield Californian 3/1/06

River Parkway was adopted into the 2010 City of Bakersfield General Plan.
2008 Bill and Rich received the
National Recreation and Park Association Award for National Voluntary Service for their work on the Kern River Parkway.

Kern River Parkway Committee established in 1972 became a non-profit in 1985, has dedicated itself to the restoration, preservation and improvement of the lower Kern River and Kern River Parkway. The Parkway is a 35 mile 15,000 acre corridor. Bakersfield Life Magazine June 2010 issue

Panorama Vista Preserve is 1,044 acres, 90 percent along both sides of the Kern River, and is held in trust by the Kern River Corridor Endowment and Holding Co., which began acquiring land 15 years ago. An experimental grove of 100 trees started four years ago, with Sycamore, Valley Oak, Box Elder, and Elderberry, is thriving. The non profit figures it will have planted 6000 trees and shrubs on the preserve. Bakersfield Life Magazine November 2010 issue.

2011

Dedication of Uplands Park on June 22, 2011

2012

Bikepath beaver damaged about a dozen trees between Mohawk Street and Coffee Road. This occurred previously in 2007 when the City of Bakersfield stated it would trap and kill the beaver. Public outcry spared the beaver. City Arborist Race Slayton stated relocated the animal is not an option. It is better to run its course. Bakersfield Californian 1/24/12

In 2007, Kern Delta Water District forfeited 50,000 acre-feet when it tried to reclaim surplus water it had not been using. That portion is now under control of the California State Water Resources Control Board [but is being controlled daily by local water districts]. A second portion of water is 70,000 acre-feet contracted between the City of Bakersfield and 3 water districts: North Kern, Cawelo, and Kern Tulare. The contracts ended in 2011. North Kern is suing to continue their portion of the sales. Bakersfield Californian 7/12/12

On September 26, 2012, Kern River Parkway Foundation President Bill Cooper spoke to the Bakersfield City Council recommending certification of the Bakersfield City Environmental Impact Report to return water to the dry riverbed. Councilmembers voted unanimously to certify the report. Bakersfield Californian 9/27/12

Letter dated 9/7/12 from Dianne Hoover, Director of Bakersfield City Recreation & Parks to Riverbend - Bikes, Boards & Bites:
… “your business is selling and/or renting solar powered bicycles which may be used on the Kern River Trail. Please be advised that even solar powered vehicles are considered motorized vehicles, pursuant to B.M.C. 10.80.030

The Kern River Corridor Endowment Fund received a grant of $1,044,275 from the California Natural Resources Agency. Previously, then endowment received $235,000 from the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, $900,000 from the California Wildlife Commission Board, $25,000 from the U.S. Dept. of Fish & Wildlife, Partners in Wildlife Program. Carolyn Belli stated a recent project was just finished involving 50 acres of restoration, including the planting of 6,000 trees, shrubs and vines. Bakersfield Californian 11/27/12

Bill Cooper, Rich O' Neil, and Spanky, the Officia Parkway Dog, near Truxtun Lake

2013

County Supervisors tighted the rules on riverfront development from the mouth of the canyon to Enos Lane, to include development within 90 feet of the primary floodplain. Bakersfield Californian 2/21/13