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REGIONAL — Tri-Valley residents are one step closer to enjoying the recreational beauty of Alameda County.

During a recent public forum, officials from several local and regional organizations discussed updates on the plan to link six miles of trail from the Niles District in Fremont to the unincorporated community of Sunol.

“This project (originally) became an initiative of District 2 because of a correspondence I received from someone in Newark,” District 2 Supervisor Richard Valle said. “She had lost her husband as the result of an accident on Niles Canyon … so we kicked around some ways to prevent bikes and trucks from having up-close and deadly encounters. This idea was born out of those collaborations.”

The Niles Canyon Trail will serve walkers, bikers and equestrians starting at the end of the Alameda Creek trail in Niles along six miles to the Sunol train station. The trail will wind through the canyon terrain, paralleling Alameda Creek and the Niles Canyon railway. The pathway will be 10-feet wide, paved and accessible to all abilities. A bridge will also link the trail to Palomares Road, creating a safe crossing of State Route 84. To accommodate user parking, the project features staging areas in downtown Niles, Palomares Road and a new parking area to be constructed by the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) in Sunol.

Community input for the project was positive. Speakers weighed in during the meeting on the design and potential features, calling for increased parking and access to expanded trails, as well as nearby commercial establishments.

“I just wanted to endorse the concept of a distributed access at either end of the trail,” said speaker Derek Johnson. “I (also) just wanted to express my support and that I’m super excited.”

Phase one of the project, which is expected to cost around $29 million, will include the development of the environmental impact report (EIR) along with the construction of the bridge to Palomares Road.

“The EIR allows us to get funding,” said Robert Stevens, principal with CSW/Stuber-Stroeh Engineering Group Inc. “This is not a pie-in-the-sky idea anymore; it is really something the county and our partners are working toward getting implemented.”

Phase two will go from Palomares Road to the Niles Canyon Railway Yard near Brightside, where approximately 25% of the aqueduct will be reconfigured as part of the trail. Phase three will include the construction of a new trail from Niles Canyon Railway to Sunol.

The Alameda County Public Works Agency (ACPWA) and its project partners, including the Cities of Fremont and Union City, as well as the EBRPD, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, and the Alameda County Water District are collaborating on the project and helping to secure funding.

“When I think of Niles Canyon, I think of this as an iconic trail ― one of the great trails of California,” said Stevens. “The trail is disconnected from the road and separate from traffic and really snakes its way through the canyon to get folks out into the open space. It’s a wonderful project.”

A scoping session, which explores the needs of the project and ongoing planning, will be held this summer; public input will be solicited.

For more information on the project, visit www.acwa.org