Kern River bike path northern extension – 12 years in the making – finally gets under way

April 5, 2024
by Lois Henry
The Kern River Parkway Trail, commonly called the bike path, is a popular recreational feature through Bakersfield. The City of Bakersfield has gone out to bid to build a 6-mile extenstion north to 7th Standard Road. Lois Henry / SJV Water
Lois Henry

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After 12 years of planning, gathering funding then completing and re-doing – and re-doing again – environmental studies, the City of Bakersfield has finally gone out to bid for the northern extension of the Kern River Parkway Trail.

“I’m very excited, it’s been a long time coming,” Councilman Bob Smith said of the 6-mile long addition to the nearly 40-mile-long path that runs the length of the Kern River from Gordon’s Ferry on the east all the way to the Buena Vista Lake Aquatic Recreation Area on the west.

This extension will take runners, hikers and cyclists north at Coffee Road along the Friant-Kern Canal up to 7th Standard Road, about a half mile west of the Gossamer Grove development.

The city expects to break ground this June and have it completed in two years. Smith said the hope is that the City of Shafter would then come south connecting the two cities.

Smith said Bakersfield is in “conversations” with Shafter about the potential but those are still in the early phases. A call to Shafter’s City Manager wasn’t returned.

The $16.2 million project – double the estimate in 2018 – went through a lot of hurdles to get to this point.

The pathway lies in the right of way of the federally owned Friant-Kern Canal, so the city had to work through the Bureau of Reclamation as well as the Friant Water Authority.

“We started talking in 2012 to the feds,” Smith said. “It’s part of the Bureau’s mission to provide multiple uses on their facilities, so this fits in.”

But the Friant Water Authority wasn’t so easy, Smith said.

“They operate and maintain the canal. They want to keep things simple, so that makes sense.”

This is the first, and so far only, walking/biking path to be built in the right of way of the critical 152-mile long canal, so yes, it took some negotiation to make sure all contingencies were addressed, said Chief Operating Officer Johnny Amaral.

Friant’s main concerns were the potential for vandalism and access so the authority can maintain the canal, which brings water from Millerton Lake north of Fresno all the way to Arvin.

“There’s nothing like this on any other reach of the canal,” he said of the path. “We were happy to work with the city and the Bureau and have all our concerns address and hopefully the path gets lots of use.”

After coming to agreement with Friant, the city then had to work with residents along the path through northwest Bakersfield and the Riverlakes Golf Course, which straddles the canal just north of Hagemen.

“The golf course didn’t want conflicts with people using the path, so we had to redesign it there and that meant we had to redo the environmental,” Smith said. 

The path also has to get over or under the Westside Parkway and the Burlington-Northern-Santa Fe railroad. The initial design would have put the path under the railroad, then it went over. All of which took extra time.

Maps showing new bike path extension (L) from the Kern River to Hageman Road and (R) from Hageman to 7th Standard. SOURCE: City of Bakersfield

“By that time, our habitat conservation plan ran out and we had to take another look at our environmental plans,” Smith said. “In all that time, yeah, costs went up.”

The price tag went from $8.2 in 2018 to $16.2 million today. The city is using money from a number of pots:

  • $4.3M from Active Transportation Program, through Caltrans
  • $7.1M from the Congestion Mitigation & Air Quality improvement program, under the Federal Emergency Management Agency
  • $4.8M in local funds, which are a combination of  Capital Outlay, Utility Surcharge and Public Safety & Vital Services Measure funds (Measure N).
This extension will help connect northwest Bakersfield residential and shopping areas to the rest of the city and vice versa, Smith said.
When asked if the extension would create a problem with more homeless encampments, Smith said he didn’t think so.
“People thought that would happen when we extended the bike path to the Stockdale Ranch area but it’s been open more than a year without any problems,” he said. “If that does happen, we’ll figure it out.”

SJV Water is an independent, nonprofit news site dedicated to covering water in the San Joaquin Valley. Get inside access to SJV Water by becoming a member.


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