When the City of Roseville decided to create an integrated trail system along creek beds for recreation and alternative transportation enhancement, administrators started at the grass roots level by reaching out to stakeholders – neighborhood associations, business leaders, bicycle advocates and environmental activists.

A Caltrans Community-based Planning Grant funded the year of workshops, meetings and field walks for the four-mile Roseville Dry Creek Greenway Bike Trail Planning & Feasibility Study.

“We took the extra step and hired a consultant who had both facilitation expertise and knowledge of the type of project,” said Mike Dour, City of Roseville alternative transportation analyst.

The outreach got off on the right foot by reaching out to the existing framework of neighborhood associations which were originally created by the local police to help with community safety.

Because the trail would be going through existing neighborhoods, issues of privacy, security and safety were important to property owners who considered the area part of their space.

Neighborhood Association leaders became members of a stakeholder group that grew to 18 members, including representatives from running groups, biking groups and businesses. A mailed survey to property owners brought in more interested parties.

“We were flexible and added new members as different interests presented themselves,” Dour said.

“It always helps to have all representative groups at the table at the same time,” explained Gladys Cornell, principal of Aim Consulting, the outreach consultant who worked with the city to facilitate input.

The two community workshops, six stakeholder meetings and five field walks allowed the city to update interested parties about how the project will integrate into the existing trail network. The face-to-face interaction also allowed citizens to have their concerns heard early in the process.

“People often come to the table with a single issue and this way we can educate them about how it works as a system,” Cornell said.

By doing outreach before the design stage, planners can incorporate solutions into the project when it is engineered.

City planners also looked at what other cities were doing to overcome concerns about homelessness and safety in wetlands and came up with a menu of solutions – including volunteer trail patrols – that could work on this trail and others already in place.

This homework phase has become an essential part of productive planning. “Don’t jump to decisions until you research all potential problems, solutions and unintended consequences,” Cornell advised. “Residents may better understand the situation than consultants doing traffic studies.”

Cornell suggested getting stakeholders to pin down their goals by asking them to prioritize their needs and find out what is non-negotiable. “Then let engineers create systems to fit those needs,” Cornell said.

The Dry Creek Trail project definitely fits the definition of early stages. The final, formal meeting in the study process is planned for October. That will be followed by environmental review, engineering, permitting, funding and right-of-way acquisition.

“It could be two to three years before we start work on the trail,” Dour said.

“You may not come to complete consensus on all aspects of a project,” Cornell said. “But through the stakeholder involvement process you give thoughtful consideration to all stakeholders concerns prior to and during design and ultimately provide a project that fits within the context of its community.”

JT Long can be reached at jtlongandco@gmail.com