Tuolumne River Regional Park, Original Vision

Early History

As early as 1930, and for the many years since then, citizens in Stanislaus County have discussed a public accessible parkway along the Tuolumne River. 

Some ideas were so bold as to envision a parkway trail from the Pacific Ocean to the foothills of the Sierra Mountains. Others contemplated a parkway extending from the Old Fisherman’s Club (intersection of HWY 132 at the San Joaquin River) to the eastern Stanislaus County Line (Lake Don Pedro). Many ideas were studied and reviewed by parkway interest stakeholders, but for many decades did not result in any specific plan. 

Creation of a Joint Power Authority

Citizens continued to express an interest in creating a river parkway along the Tuolumne River. In 1966, a committee of elected officials was assembled (lead by the first chairperson, Supervisor Fahey) composed of two-members of the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors, two-members of Modesto City Council and one-member of Ceres City Council. This committee was assembled to hire a landscape architect and work to develop a plan for creating the Tuolumne River Regional Park. 

In 1967, the Tuolumne River Regional Park Advisory Committee worked with a local citizens’ committee and hired landscape architects to explore ideas and suggestions from a wide sampling of the county’s population. The committee received input from many organizations throughout Stanislaus County, including the Horsemen’s Association, Fly-casting Club, Model Airplane Club, Council of Senior Citizens, Folk Dance Association and many more. 

In February 1968, the Tuolumne River Regional Park Advisory Committee submitted the proposed plan which they state would provide a regional park of outstanding significance to the residents of Stanislaus County and beyond. The County Board of Supervisors and City Councils of City of Modesto and City of Ceres approved the plan. 

The plan was eventually amended to include additional lands on the south bank of the Tuolumne River between Carpenter Road and Crows Landing Road. 

In February 1972, the Tuolumne River Regional Park Advisory Committee formally created the Tuolumne River Regional Park Joint Powers Authority. Due to its proximity to the parkway, the City of Modesto was selected to administer the parkway on behalf of the Joint Powers Authority.  The Joint Powers Authority sets general policy of the parkway, addresses legal matters, the purchase and maintenance of publicly owned parkway property. 

From the 1970s’ through the 1990s’ acquisition of desirable property parcels along the Tuolumne River were acquired by the Joint Powers Authority. Eventually the Joint Powers Authority gained public ownership of seven miles of river frontage from the Mitchell Road Bridge on the eastern edge of the parkway to just past the Carpenter Road Bridge on the western end of the parkway, totaling more than 500 acres of new public park lands. 

Development of the Park

The uniqueness of the Tuolumne River as a dominant site element and its tremendous potential for a recreation destination related to water, nature and wildlife provides an ideal environment for the development of a parkway decidedly regional in its formation. To serve this proper function the Tuolumne River Regional Park contains selected facilities which are significantly different in both scale and character than what can be, or likely to be, developed by any of the individual communities in the region they serve.  

Once completed the Tuolumne River Regional Park will provide an open greenbelt of publicly accessible space through the community of Modesto, stretching to the edges of the countryside and is centrally located to serve all residents of Stanislaus County. The parkway furthermore holds an essential and valuable conservation role providing waterfront access, water-oriented recreation, and floodplain areas for the protection of local community infrastructure.  

Park Objectives

The basic objectives of the Tuolumne River Regional Park: 

  1. To create a parkway which will provide unique recreational facilities in a pleasant, beautiful, and interesting environment, taking full advantage of its prime feature, the Tuolumne River. 
  2. To recognize all the positive and well as negative aspects of the site, including potential flooding, topography, and pedestrian circulation within the overall parkway. 
  3. To achieve the best possible juxtaposition of facilities in relationship to one another, to the site and to the surrounding land uses, both present and future. 
  4. To provide easy access facilities and sites with minimal conflict between pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

Since the formation of the Tuolumne River Regional Park Joint Powers Authority several amenities have been constructed including the Mary Grogan Grove Picnic Areas ‘A’ and ‘B’, and playground; Carpenter Road Area Soccer Complex, Phase 1; and numerous recreation trails within the Gateway Parcel and Airport parkway sections. 

In 2023, the Tuolumne River Regional Park Joint Powers Authority began work to update the Master Plan for the Tuolumne River Region Park to address the many upcoming construction projects planned for the parkway. 

(Cited: Colleen Stanley Bare, “Modesto Then and Now”, 1999)