For several years there have been many concerns from Riverbank residents about the people using the River Cove area to access the Stanislaus River that have been less than desirable. In fact, many have found it to be more of a nuisance with issues like trash being left behind in yards, vandalism, water hoses being used, parking congestion, invasion of privacy, and overcrowding in the neighborhood especially during the hot summer months when the river levels are low. Due to the overwhelming problems in the River Cove neighborhood, Riverbank council members and city officials discussed the matter at the regular city council meeting in November.
“This is not a new problem,” noted City Manager Sean Scully. “This is something that has been plaguing the area for a long time. This last summer has been one of the worst. Oakdale has some similar issues and I spoke with the city of Ripon and they also experience some similar issues depending on the season.”
The residents in the area have also noticed several intoxicated people that drive out of their neighborhood, according to Scully, as well as homeless issues along the river. He expressed that the natural habitat has also been damaged.
There were three long-term solutions considered at the meeting and the city council unanimously selected Option 3, with modifications, in an attempt to manage the problems facing the residents of River Cove.
The Army Corps advised the City that if the riparian/natural habitat is negatively affected due to significant use the City can close access to all individuals to allow a reasonable time period for the natural area to regrow and repair the natural environment. Scully added that staff believes that Option 3 has the best chance of success. With this option people would be redirected to Jacob Myers Park to access the river. The proposed closure noted was for the summer season of April 2021 through October 2021. They would use private security and the Sheriff’s department to enforce the closure.
The first option was to set up a physical barrier like a fence or lockable gate along the northern edge of River Cove Drive that would regulate entry into the river access area. This option was also noted as the most expensive option with an estimated cost of about $80,000. The city did not have a specific funding source for the gate at that time of discussion.
The second option proposed was to create a seasonal parking restriction along River Cove Drive to limit the duration of parking within the area during the times when the river access is overcrowded. This could include painting curbs a certain color. Scully explained that staff thinks there would be unintended consequences with river goers parking farther away in order to access the river.
Although the concerns regarding the river access along River Cove Drive has existed for approximately over 20 years, there have been some recent efforts to remedy the situation. City staff, Mayor Richard O’Brien, Councilmember Cal Campbell, and Riverbank Police Services Chief Ed Ridenour attended an outdoor community meeting in the beginning of the summer where they listened to the concerns of the citizens to figure out a way to help. They also increased private security, increased Deputy patrols, added surveillance cameras, and increased staff for trash cleanup and pickup.
There were a couple of comments made during public comment and one of them was from River Cove resident Chris Robinson.
“First of all I want to thank everybody for taking this issue seriously,” stated Robinson. “It is something near and dear to my heart and other residents in River Cove. I want to speak directly to the concerns of the Mayor and also Councilman Campbell. We know that it may not work personally I think Option 3 has the most promise. It is also the lowest impact.”
There will be a formal item added to the agenda at a future meeting regarding Option 3 with modifications for the council to consider. The next regular scheduled City Council meeting will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 8 at 6 p.m.
“What I honestly believe and from talking to other neighbors we think just breaking the cycle for a season and getting the message out that this is a neighborhood, it is not burning man,” remarked Robinson. “I think this repairing habitat restoration project has the most opportunity out of all the options to possibly break the chain of this party mentality that people have. Option 3 is our best bet at breaking that cycle.”