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Eastside bike path extension plan at Kern River Golf Course dead

It started two years ago as a slightly whimsical idea that evolved into a full-fledged county plan to loop the east end of the Kern River bike path around the back side of the Kern River Golf Course.

Now the plan is dead.

Last week, at the urging of Kern County Public Works Director Craig Pope, the Kern County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to kill the plan and begin again from the beginning.

"The first reason we're considering rejecting all bids," Pope told county supervisors at the meeting, "the price came in at $618,000 and we only had 464 (thousand). We're shy $155,000 right off the bat."

Secondly, while the original concept had the path extension going around the outside of the golf course, planners moved the route inside the golf course's fenceline because of concerns for adjacent riparian habitat, as well as a steep slope just beyond the eastern edge of the property.

"When it gets right down to it," Pope said, "there is no (going) around the golf course."

Pope called the plan a "feel-good project."

"Let's build a path the community can get behind, not one that divides the community," he said. "Let's find one that works."

The plan went out to bid close to two months ago. The low bid came in from Bowman Asphalt to do the physical work of building the extension. But Bowman is now out of that job.

The several hundred thousand dollars in funding mentioned by Pope was to come from state monies that had been earmarked by the Kern Council of Governments, the primary funding stream for the project.

But Jacque Servadio, director and longtime teaching pro at the public golf course, told The Californian earlier this month that the proposed path is dangerous to cyclists, a lawsuit waiting to happen for the golf course, and a threat to the security of the facility, which leases the land from the county of Kern.

"It's a huge safety concern, a huge liability concern," Servadio said of the proposed path.

It seemed once the golf course condemned the plan, there was no longer any way forward. 

Golf course superintendent Andy Heinze, who spoke out against the plan at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting, said the plan would have had path users converging on the golf course's utility road, creating potential hazards as the road is used by drivers of large lawn mowers, tree trimmers, delivery trucks and other vehicles.

"It's not right," he said. "We need a better plan."

But defenders of the plan also spoke at the meeting.

Cindy Parra, a board member at KernCOG, suggested to supervisors that rejecting the project — which would have been mostly paid for through already earmarked state funding — could potentially affect the ready availability of similar funding in the future.

"Not delivering this project the way it is right now, there's a good chance they will not accept anything after this," she said at the meeting.

Getting all parties together and working out a solution, Parra said, would have been "better than scrapping the whole project."

Third-district Supervisor Mike Maggard, who led the charge against the plan, said he believes a better plan will materialize to replace the golf course project, which he said has become "divisive and negative."

"The issue is that this plan, while a nice idea, was ill-conceived," Maggard said following public comment.

Cyclists, joggers and families with children sharing the golf course's service road is dangerous, he said. And the path would have emptied out on the access road to the course and then onto Lake Ming Road.

In responding to Parra's suggestion, Maggard was unmoved.

"Frankly, I think it's a red herring that KernCOG may not give us more money," Maggard said. "Well, if there is a community need — and there is — I believe they will give us more money.

"And if they don't, then we will apply the public pressure that is necessary so they can tell the public why they don't want to give us more money."

KernCOG Executive Director Ahron Hakimi didn't say whether the county's 11th-hour rejection of its own plan could affect future funding allocations. But he did say that KernCOG's Transportation Technical Advisory Committee, known as TTAC, is meeting this week to address some of those questions.

According to the meeting agenda, the committee will also work toward the possible reassignment of the county's funds to another eligible project.

They're going to address these questions, Hakimi said.

"Where are we now? How did we get here? And what is the path forward?"

Reporter Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.

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