Vine Trail will enhance its surroundings - Opinion letter, St. Helena Star


As many of your readers know, the Napa Valley Vine Trail Coalition is a grassroots nonprofit representing over 30 organizations whose mission is to build a 47-mile walking and biking trail system connecting the entire Napa Valley – from Vallejo to Calistoga.

When we embarked on this community effort in 2008, this seemed like a lofty goal, and yet, we can now proudly say that 40 percent of the trail has been completed and another 20 percent is funded and in design. The existing sections provide safety, connectivity, and a green approach to transportation for Napa County’s residents, families, commuters, and visitors.

Over recent weeks, there have been several letters published here expressing opposition to the Vine Trail from residents on Ehlers Lane, stating 1) that the proposed trail section from Saint Helena to Calistoga that traverses this public road will be detrimental to the neighborhood, and 2) that the County is required to solicit a Measure P vote in order to accept easements from landowners and construct the trail in the Ag Preserve.

 We disagree with these assertions.

As to Point 1, everyone is entitled to their own view of whether the trail will or will not enhance the surrounding community. We view the Vine Trail as a beneficial community resource with over 70 percent of the Vine Trail users living within Napa County. It is a public bike and pedestrian facility that offers a climate-smart transportation option for commuters, a recreational outlet for Napa County residents, and a safe, fitness-centered means for visitors to experience Napa Valley’s treasured landscape.

The data from other trail installations around the country clearly supports our belief that trails enhance the communities they traverse and serve, even neighborhoods that initially opposed them. Indeed, this is reflected in resale values of properties close to trails being higher than comparable properties away from trails.

As to the second point, a Measure P vote is not required for the county to accept easements from private landowners to construct the trail in the Ag Preserve, because the Napa County General Plan and zoning ordinances allow public uses in any zoning designation — particularly where, as here, the proposed use would not disrupt or otherwise alter the predominantly agricultural nature of the surrounding land.

For example, counties can and do construct or permit construction of firehouses, water treatment plants, trails, roads, public utility substations, pumping stations, etc. within their jurisdictions regardless of the underlying zoning. Existing sections of the trail that run between South Napa and Yountville already run through both the city center and alongside Napa County’s stunning agricultural lands. This has been done with great thought, consideration, and collaboration with the county

The Vine Trail Coalition Board also includes several land representing members, including the Napa Valley Vintners, the Napa Valley Grapegrowers, the Winegrowers of Napa County and the Napa County Farm Bureau, who since the beginning, have advocated for a responsible Ag and trail interface and for doing this in the right way, with respect to Ag land. These organizations support the Vine Trail Coalition and the County in their current approach.

Finally, as to the specific route, the Vine Trail Coalition remains open and ready to consider any route through this very constrained section of the Valley. We have found 14 landowners and four public agencies who support one particular route, but we are happy to consider alternatives that will provide a contiguous trail from Saint Helena to Calistoga. Our goal is to bring a world-class trail to our community that we all can enjoy.

Chuck McMinn

Chairman and President, Napa Valley Vine Trail Coalition