Eco-Touring – August 2007

Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine “Eco-Touring” August 2007.

Napa Valley Marketplace Eco-Touring Article Photo: August 2007: Kennedy Park and the Napa River

Ramblin’ On by the Napa Nomad, Eco-excursions in the Napa Valley
Kennedy Park and the Napa River
By Arvis Northrop

I have recently become a member of the Friends of the Napa River. Joining the FONR has awakened a silent bond I’ve had with our river. Maybe it’s because the river is one of the most ancient aspects of the Napa Valley. No matter what has been built over it and around it, Nature continues to flow. When I tap into this vein of the valley, I believe I am close to the heart of Nature.

I love the Friends of the Napa River office. The building’s style matches the heritage of all things “old Napa.” I’m happiest with “old Napa,” my own house having been built in 1940. I find the ambiance of the office of the FONR calming and intriguing at the same time. There are large maps on the walls of the river, wetlands and the San Pablo Bay. There are books and reports and stacks of studies. I feel surrounded with the history and importance of this river. I also feel surrounded with the human integrity and commitment that the members of Friends of the Napa River uphold in honor of this natural habitat. For more information about this organization call 707-254-8520 or email:

One of the best eco-excursions you can have is walking and biking around Kennedy Park and the Napa River. On a Sunday I went there as a getaway, a few moments to be outside. There were boats buzzing up and down the river, people fishing from the banks and happy picnic parties with balloons and tables spread with great looking party food.

How many times have I said out loud, “There’s nothing to do around here?” A few times, maybe, when I wasn’t into wine tasting at that moment. On this particular Sunday at Kennedy Park I found myself concocting a fantasy: what if one of the engineers, designers or landscape architects had overheard me? Would they feel a sting of resentment that someone didn’t appreciate all the work they’d done? Was this a silly scenario to think about? Or was it an opportunity to realize what it takes for a community to work together and provide something for everyone? For some reason, this thought came through my mind and opened up new respect for Kennedy Park, all parks, and the Napa River.

New trail! The Kennedy Park trail now goes under the new Maxwell Bridge and runs along the river, reaching for Third Street. Another great thing is it’s right behind the Animal Shelter on Gasser Drive. I have recently learned that people volunteer to walk the dogs from the shelter, and now they have direct access to the beautiful trail along the river.

This trail also highlights the advancements of the Flood Project. The embankment stretches out flat and wide to the river. I thought maybe they would build something out there, but no. (I’m getting more ecology-savvy everyday.) That stretch of embankment is off-limits to feet and paws. The river swells with tides and rain, and then fills up to the trail, not overflowing and flooding. The landfill will be covered with natural vegetation. Birds will drop seeds, salty water at high tide will cultivate them and within one or two years, the area will be back in balance. We’ll have a new natural marsh with grasses, plants, birds, and wildlife. Nature will take its course.

There is “an inconvenient truth” about the trails along the river. Kennedy Park is perfect for people and dogs but letting dogs run free, off-leash, will risk damage to the fragile plant reconstruction that’s in progress.

If you’re biking to Kennedy Park, here’s a suggestion for a picnic. Bring a backpack with your own bottled water or soft drink. Stop at any deli for your snacks and lunch; I suggest ToGo’s in the South Napa Marketplace. You can get a hardy lunch for two for under $15. (Mmmm, #11, roast beef and avocado on Parmesan bread). Your backpack is loaded up and you’re on your way. Bike over to Gasser Drive, behind the Target store. Turn onto Hartle Court; peddle out past the Animal Shelter and right through the gate to the new trail. From there you can bike all the way to the picnic grounds in Kennedy or stop at any of the benches along the trail. What a great place to have lunch and enjoy the view.

Here are a few “eco-tips” for your outing:
• Bring your own water and drinks in reusable
plastic or stainless steel bottles. Think about
making your own iced tea or lemonade.
• Bring cloth napkins in your backpack and tell the
deli person you don’t need the paper napkins.
• Save the paper or plastic bag they put your
wrapped sandwich in for the next visit.
• Kindly suggest to the deli person, or manager if
available, that they think about switching to
recycled paper products.
• Always dispose of your trash in the containers

For your eco-excursion to Kennedy Park: take the #5 Vine bus from the town center to Napa Valley College; or bike there. To reserve picnic space call: 707-257-9529. Have you checked out the “Formal Gardens” picnic area? It’s like your own private estate garden, including a gazebo. I think it would be great for a bridal shower or anniversary party or Mother’s Day gathering. All right, now I’m just ramblin’ on…


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