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Gregory Street Bridge
Is A Link in the Citywide Trail System
by Blaize Cairn-Marker
April 2004

This is the text from
an article written by
Janice Rombeck
of the Mercury News,
March 4, 2004.



Exploring San Jose neighborhoods on foot or bike just got easier with the opening of the 140-foot-long, 10-foot-wide Gregory Street Bridge over Los Gatos Creek in the Willow Glen area.

In the long term, the pedestrian bridge is an important link to the Los Gatos Creek Trail that eventually will stretch from the Lexington Reservoir to Alviso through downtown San Jose's Guadalupe River Trail. In the short term, the bridge, which was officially opened Saturday, links two neighborhoods and creates an alternative to the busy Interstate 280-Bird Avenue overpass to get to Lincoln Avenue or West San Carlos.

The bridge, a $257,727 project, starts at the end of Fuller Street in the Gregory Plaza neighborhood on the west side of Bird Avenue. A short distance away is historic Palm Haven. On the other side of the bridge is a short segment of the Los Gatos Creek Trail and a connection to Lonus Court, a short street that intersects with Lincoln Avenue.

On the Gregory Plaza side, the project, built by JFC Construction, includes fencing, a drinking fountain, benches and an improved sidewalk.
While residents, including those in north Willow Glen, Gregory Plaza, Hannah Gregory and Del Monte neighborhoods, are most excited about future recreation and alternative transportation possibilities when the creek trails are complete, the footbridge is stirring interest, as well. It also is generating concerns.

Cliff Price, who lives with his wife, Katie, and their 20-month-old son on Gregory Street in Gregory Plaza, is looking forward to the day -- perhaps in two or three years -- when he and his family can hop on bikes and head downtown for a festival. But in the meantime, he will use the bridge to walk downtown, taking Lonus Court to Lincoln Avenue and then to West San Carlos.

While it's a slightly longer route, he can avoid the busy Bird Avenue overpass.

"It's a place to get exercise and not have to deal with street traffic,'' he said.

He and others are concerned, however, about the bridge generating foot traffic through Gregory Plaza, a neighborhood that has had access only off of Bird Avenue. He worries about the Los Gatos Creek Trail segment becoming a hangout for gangs, and pointed to gang graffiti on a gate fronting Lonus Court. The neighborhood also has been worried about a homeless encampment along the creek near Gregory Street.

"There's a possibility of things happening along the trail while it's secluded,'' he said. "Once it becomes a larger thoroughfare, I think those problems will go away.''

Norma Ruiz, a 20-year resident of Gregory Street on the other side of the bridge, got her first peek at it last week before it officially opened.

"It's lovely,'' she said. "Usually we try to walk around our neighborhood and walk across the freeway and into Willow Glen. This provides another alternative to doing that.'

Ruiz, a member of the Del Monte Neighborhood Association, formerly the Hannah Gregory Neighborhood Association, lives in an area in transition. The old Del Monte cannery site is targeted for housing, starting with 500 homes, she said.

"That's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of development,'' she said.
The trail will eventually go through her area toward downtown and the new housing should assure it will be well-used.

Not a lot of people know about the Gregory Plaza and Hannah Gregory neighborhoods, said Councilman Ken Yeager, who represents both areas. The bridge "makes it easier for people to explore different parts of San Jose. The rivers and creeks are wonderful in San Jose, but it isn't easy to cross them. This is one of those areas we're able to do that.''

The bridge might look like a small step in the completion of a citywide trail system, but it's an important one, said Yves Zsutty, the city's trails coordinator. It allows the city to move forward on a master plan for the Los Gatos Creek Trail extensions. "The bridge becomes the first part in a much larger recreation area that ultimately will connect Lexington Reservoir to Alviso,'' he said.

Planning is also under way for 48 miles of trail, including segments along Thompson Creek, Coyote Creek, the Guadalupe River and creek, Penitencia Creek, San Tomas Creek and lower Silver Creek. On Saturday, the new stretch of the Guadalupe River Trail opened from Blossom Hill Road to Chynoweth Avenue.

"I'm eager to see how well it's used,'' Yeager said of the Gregory Street Bridge. "There's a couple other Strong Neighborhoods Initiative areas that have thought about having a bridge that connects their neighborhood to a trail. So if this works out, it might be something we see more of.''


Copyright 2004