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Sugar Pine Trail links Fresno County (21 PHOTOS)

While looking for a place to get some exercise by riding a bicycle, jogging, or walking, many residents of Fresno and Clovis travel along the Sugar Pine Trail also known as the Clovis Old Town Trail. With 13 miles in length, this trail goes through northern Fresno to southern Clovis and connects important resources such as the Fresno Yosemite International Airport and Woodward Park.

The process of building this trail began in the early 1990s when the cities of Fresno and Clovis put aside $1.8 million to purchase the land. It then took the help and contribution of local business men and volunteers to complete this project.

Mark Keppler was one of the leaders of construction and put in his contribution by starting a non-profit organization called the Coalition of Community Trails (CCT) in May of 1997. In order to begin the trail project, he convinced the cities of Fresno and Clovis to help purchase the land by depositing $600,000, which they achieved through the sale of the rail line west of Blackstone Avenue. The trail now combines two separate railroad corridors.

To further pay for this project, leaders were awarded money contributions by the CCT who wrote a $926,000 grant to the Valley Air Pollution Control District to construct the trail in December of 1997. The rest of the financial contributions came from federal, state and local government dollars towards underpasses, lighting and landscaping.

Out of this Fresno-Clovis joint effort, it cost a total of $5 million to construct both the Fresno Sugar Pine and Clovis Old Town Trails.

The CCT then began planting over 4,500 trees along the path to provide shade and scenery to trail users in May of 2000. Keppler helped plan out the planting of the trees and appreciated the 3,000 volunteers that were willing to help. It took approximately only three hours to plant trees in the the pre-dug holes.

“It was a great way for families and citizens to feel ‘ownership’ in the project,” Keppler said.

Keppler claims to have just helped with the organizing and financial aid of the project, whereas John Wright ‘championed the project.’ Wright is the Planning Director of the City of Clovis and came up with the idea to construct the Sugar Pine and Clovis Old Town Trails.

?The advantage was John Wright,? Keppler said. ?He was terrific. He not only cared about the community, he had the technical and political smarts to cut through all the red tape and make things happen.?

When Keppler first came to Fresno in 1987 from Connecticut, he noticed how there was a lack of park space and biking/walking facilities. This further encouraged him to be a leader in this Sugar Pine Trial project.

“I thought this was a great opportunity to leverage a potential community asset instead of seeing the land left abandoned by weeds,” Keppler said. “I was also hoping it would inspire folks to think about turning all our canal banks into landscaped walking and biking trails and to think about other ways to make our community a nicer place to live.”

Along with Keppler, voters chosen by Fresno County also wanted to have more trails in the community. About seven years ago, local residents voted on projects concerning a new transportation tax, Measure C. One of these projects included trails, and voters were asked which project they would want to spend money on if Measure C was passed. As a result, trails ranked #3 and Measure C passed with over 70% of the vote.

After knowing that people in the community want more trails in the area, $55 million out of the $1.4 billion Measure C money was used towards trails in Fresno County over the course of the next 13 years.

Despite this, Keppler claims that a disadvantage came with Measure C, which was persuading local developers to think of the common good rather than selfish motives in taking land for themselves. For example, some developers wanting to building malls, gas stations or the latest businesses on or across the trail.

Apart from this, now that the trail has been open to the public for about 11 years, Keppler says he could not be happier with the results. He now teaches at California State University, Fresno at the Craig School of Business.

“It is wonderful to see families and children use the trail,? Keppler said. ?For me, it is proof positive that you get more joy by giving something than you ever get from receiving something.”

For a map of the trail, check out For more information on Fresno County, read the April 6 article, Pastoral surroundings distinguish Sanger recreations.

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