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LOIS HENRY: Kern River bike path extension to start this month

Residents will soon be able to scoot, cycle, jog or hike on the bike path all the way from the middle of Bakersfield to Buena Vista Lake.

Construction on a 7-mile-long extension of the Kern River bike path from its current terminus at Enos Lane to Buena Vista Lake south of Highway 119 will begin in the next few weeks, according to Kern County Public Works Manager Michael Dillenbeck.

When it's done, the extension will bring the bike path to nearly 40 miles end to end.

"It's a really great thing," said Kerry Ryan, owner of Action Sports and an avid cyclist. "Bakersfield is fortunate enough to already have the longest, almost totally uninterrupted bike path in the nation and this just adds to it."

He predicted that being able to ride or hike along the river to Buena Vista Lake will excite residents and "bring a whole new batch of riders" to the bike path.

For most of the trek, the path will parallel Enos Lane but for about a mile it will cut through the Kern Water Bank, which made the project slightly more difficult.

"We worked hard for a year to get an amendment to our habitat conservation plan to allow the path on the water bank," said Jonathan Parker, General Manager of the Kern Water Bank Authority.

Parker said he had to walk the entire proposed path with biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The Kern Water Bank covers 20,000 acres and is considered a key wildlife conservation area as well as being the largest water bank in California.

Dillenbeck said the construction schedule hasn't yet been approved so he didn't have a completion date for the project, which was bid at $3.2 million.

The county used a $5 million state and federal grant which covered everything from design and environmental work to construction.

But wait, that's not all.

The county expects to start another extension on the eastern end of the bike path next summer.

That section won't add as many miles, but it will complete a loop from where the paved path now ends just west of Ming Lake up and around the Kern River Golf Course and back.

The county obtained another state grant of about $540,000 to finish that loop.

SJV Water is a nonprofit, independent online news publication covering water in the San Joaquin Valley. Lois Henry is the CEO/Editor of SJV Water. She can be reached at lois.henry@sjvwater.org. The website is www.sjvwater.org.