An Alamo River Trail Is Still High On Holtville’s Priorities List

By Luke Phillips
The City of Holtville is slowly, but surely, putting plans in motion to create a trail that will highlight one of the city’s hidden natural resources: The Alamo River.
Holtville City Manager Laura Fischer says that the trail project is still a year or two away, but one project aimed at cleaning up the river bottom is already under way.
The Holtville City Council recently voted to go ahead with plans for the Alamo River Storm Water Prevention Pollution Project. The city is currently finishing the bidding process to hire a contractor for the project. Fischer says she hopes to award the contract some time this month.
According to Fischer, the project will prevent storm water from running into the Alamo River and eroding the river’s banks. Fischer says soil erosion has been a problem in the area, causing streets to crumble along the edges – an ongoing maintenance problem that she says the new project should fix.
“Orchard Road has really been undermined,” she said.
The project will include the installation of mesh/straw materials along the banks to prevent erosion, as well as construction of a berm to collect rain water and return it to the river in a more controlled way. Plans also include the removal of some heavy shrubbery in the area.
The pollution prevention project will be completed at a cost of $102,283, and is being paid for by a grant from the Border Environmental Cooperation Commission.
Three other projects are also in the works along the Alamo.
The city is currently trying to secure funding to build a river walk trail along the river and Fischer says that she’s confident they will get the grant. The city has submitted two applications for funds for the project: one with the State of California Resource Agency, and one with the California Parks and Recreation Department, and Fischer says state officials have already been in Holtville to review the project site and walk the proposed trail.
“It’s one of the top applications being looked at for funding,” she said.
The proposed trail will begin behind the city Public Works yard on Fourth Street, continue under the Orchard Rd. bridge and end just past Earle Walker park. Fischer stressed that the project would be a nature trail and not a park. She says that the city will do what they can to maintain the natural, native plants in the area.
“We just want to clear enough brush so you can actually see the river,” she said. “I’ve lived here all my life, and I don’t think I ever actually saw the Alamo until last week. We’re going to thin it so people can see the river, fish in the river and just enjoy the outdoors. We don’t want to make it too much like a park.”
Plans for the trail also include the installation of benches and restrooms.
Fischer says that the city will find out in September if they have been approved for grant funding, but she says the start of the project is ‘at least a year away’.
Fischer says the city is also working with their insurance company to restore the Alamo River Railroad Trestle, which was damaged in a fire last year. Fischer says she’s not sure when work on the trestle will begin, but that it will be restored.
“We’re working with the insurance company. We’re in the middle of all those gyrations,” Fischer said. “They are going to put it back just the way it was pre-fire.”
The Alamo River trail will also tie in to another project in the works. Fischer says the city is seeking funding for a wetlands project in the Alamo River bottom between Alamo Rd. and Zenos Rd.
Fischer says that the city failed in an attempt to secure funding for the project last year, but they’re going to ‘beef up’ their efforts this time around.
Land for the project was bought by the city from Southern Pacific Railroad in 2007 for just under half a million dollars, and Fischer says the city started applying for grants for the project right away.
The proposed project will include a series of clear-water ponds and a snake-like stream that will filter pollutants out of the water before returning it to the river.
Fischer says the wetlands will be open to the public for walking, hiking, and fishing, unlike two similar projects in Imperial and Brawley.
“There’s just so much we can do in this area,” Fischer said. “We are the only city in the Imperial Valley that has a natural river flowing through the city. This is not the New River. It’s not contaminated. It’s something that we should cherish.”