Compared to other parts of California, the San Joaquin Valley has very few public places for children, adults, and families to enjoy the outdoors. In fact, the Central Valley region has the state’s lowest ratio of parkland to population. Along much of the river land is privately owned. Public recreation is generally unavailable in these stretches, as are scenic views of the river from the road.
In its 2009 Central Valley Vision Implementation Plan, the California State Parks Department pointed to the Central Valley’s absence of a well-developed regional park system, noting residents must travel 50 minutes on average to reach a recreation area, twice the distance that Southern California and Bay Area residents must travel. The plan further spotlighted the Central Valley as a region with particularly few state parks to serve its growing population. Since the handful of public parks along the San Joaquin River cannot meet the growing need for outdoor space, overcrowding has forced park managers to turn away large numbers of people on hot summer days.
Outdoor gathering spaces encourage families, neighbors, and other community members to come together to relax, to play, to celebrate, and to reflect. Park creation, revitalization, and upkeep can build community ties, ownership, and pride. As a mosaic of parks and natural areas, the San Joaquin River Blueway will over time significantly expand the availability of outdoor recreation for our Valley communities.