Esparto and Walkable Communities: A Brief 16-year History
Safe Routes to Schools
Prior to 2000, a number of studies were done to look at infrastructure issues in Esparto. Through this research, a Safe Route to Schools proposal was submitted by Yolo County and received federal funding for sidewalks in Esparto targeting Plainfield St., Madison St. and Omega St. as the first target in 2005. It was noted that depending on the site of the proposed middle school and possible move of the High School would determine any future sidewalk buildout. As the dust settled, a new Esparto Unified School District (EUSD) Middle school was built and the plans for the new EUSD High School were changed to concentrate on the current site at Grafton. It became obvious that a sidewalk on Grafton was the next necessary target. Minutes from the Esparto Citizen’s Advisory Committee as long ago as 2010 discussed seeking funds to address this needed pathway for the safety of children going to school.
Esparto and Capay Calming Projects
Both Esparto and the town of Capay were targeted by CalTrans for formal traffic studies in response to the increased traffic by the expansion of the Cache Creek Casino. The CEQA of both the Tribe and Yolo County, though differing in amounts, estimated the traffic to increase to 27,000 cars weekly going through the town of Esparto and Capay as there is only one Yolo Ave. (or main street) which is also State Highway 16 as a way in and out to the casino. This street must be crossed by the majority of students to the Esparto High School living on the westside of Esparto. CalTrans recommended many safety improvements for the corridor. Simultaneously, citizens working with Yolo County as the applicant, applied and received a SACOG (Sacramento Area Council of Governments) grant to review not only the safety issues but the entire viability and walkability of Esparto.
Dan Burden of Walkable Communities Inc. --2005
Capay Valley Vision, under contract with Yolo County, hired Dan Burden from Florida and his engineering team to help devise an Esparto Revitalization Plan with the SACOG funding. Capay Valley Vision also commissioned the Local Government Commission to help with the community involvement and bring their expertise in livable and walkable communities to Esparto. With over 14 different focus groups and multiple town hall meetings, Esparto embraced the idea of walkability and felt it was possible to achieve those goals and the vision that Dan and his team helped us identify. The Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted the plan in 2007. It also helped frame the future revised General Plan for Esparto. The “Dan Burden plan” as many of locals called it, brought a leadership award to Capay Valley Vision from SACOG.
The coalition of citizens under Capay Valley Vision’s leadership continued to work on specific conditions, projects and details outlined in the Esparto Revitalization Plan or Dan Burden plan. In addition, Yolo County appointed a standing committee called the Streetscape Task Force to work with Yolo County with the Rumsey Band of Wintun Indians (now Yocha Dehe) and CalTrans to look at a potential Complete Streets application to submit to SACOG to work on curbs, gutters, sidewalks, etc. for Esparto. With State Gaming funds and an additional grant from SACOG, an engineering report was commissioned and completed by Mark Thomas and Co. and readied for submission. However, at that same time Yolo County was experiencing a fiscal crisis that did not give them the luxury of matching funds for the project. The engineering report was shelved to hopefully be revived at some future date. With the remaining funds, the committee tolled on outlining potential uses of the funds that were doable.
Some of the projects completed with the help of CalTrans included stamped crosswalks; a left turn lane; diagnol parking off street and inclusion of a Class II bike lane. New Season Community Development Corp. also received funding from the Yolo County Mitigation Fund to repair and upgrade the streetlights on Yolo Ave. in Esparto. Later, a portion of Streetscape funds were set aside for solar pedestrian crosswalks (which have not been installed yet). New Season acted on the County’s behalf and received support from all existing agencies in the Esparto area for crosswalks. The project was and is heavily supported by EUSD. A documentation of Streetscape activities exist in every edition of the Valley Voice from 2005 until 2015 as part of the feedback to this community process that fostered this interest. Additionally, there is much discussion of a Phase II Esparto calming project from CalTrans. It is not been funded to date.