Napa Valley is known for world-class wine and food.
The region is a popular tourist destination, but most people explore Napa Valley by car even though the beautiful scenery and weather is perfect for biking.
Thankfully, the amazing Napa Valley Vine Trail Coalition is a grassroots organization working to fund, construct, and support “47 safe and scenic miles of level, paved, family-friendly, pet-friendly, free-access Class I trail, stretching from Vallejo’s Ferry to Calistoga.”
This Vine Trail would connect many Napa Valley communities from Vallejo to Calistoga and allow both residents and tourists to follow Highway 29 and existing Wine Train tracks.
PUBLIC was proud to support the Vine Trail by providing 80+ customized Green PUBLIC V7 bikes to winners of a 2015 Vine Trail auction package.
On June 1, many of these winners went on a preview guided ride from Kennedy Park in Napa to Yountville on their customized PUBLIC bikes where they also enjoyed a delicious lunch by chef Michael Chiarello at Bottega Ristorante.
Take a look at some photos from their ride.
We interviewed Philip Sales, Executive Director of Napa Valley Vine Trail, to learn more about the Napa Valley Vine Trail:
Right now, what kinds of people bike in Napa Valley and what kind of infrastructure are they riding on? And once Napa Valley Vine Trail is completed, what changes do you anticipate seeing?
I cycled the Napa Valley on the very first “Backroads” Bike Tour of Napa Valley in 1981. My friend Tom Hale had just started “Backroads”. At that time Highway 29, which connects the Valley, was busy but nothing like the traffic we have today. Highway 29 and the Silverado Trail (a county road, not a trail!) are still the only north-south routes for most cyclists but traffic speeds are fast and there are inadequate shoulders in many places. Coupled with the facts that we have 3 million tourists unfamiliar with the area and distracted drivers, these routes are not for the faint of heart. You really need to be a confident and experienced cyclist. Sadly, there have been several fatalities involving cyclists on both the Silverado Trail and SR29, most recently last week where an experienced cyclist was killed.
The 47-mile Vine Trail is a game changer and a transformational project. Being a separate trail, wide enough for both pedestrians and cyclists, the Vine Trail it will provide a safe alternative for locals and visitors. The first 12.5- mile phase from Kennedy Park in Napa to Yountville provides a corridor which connects communities, downtown, retail, hotels and schools. Over 18,000 students from K-12 and the Napa Community College attend schools within half a mile of the new trail. We want this trail to be a place you would feel comfortable sending your kids to school on.
Our next phase of the Vine Trail, for which we assisted the Napa Valley Transportation Authority secure a $6.1 million grant, will connect the cities of Calistoga and St Helena with Bothe Napa State Park. Over 1.5 million tourists visit that upper part of Napa Valley. We believe that this next project will provide a safe alternative to driving in that very constrained and busy corridor.
To make the Napa Valley Vine Trail a reality, it requires cooperation between the public, private, and nonprofit sector. Why do you think people from different sectors are drawn to this project and what are the major opportunities and challenges when a project involves so many players to implement?
The Vine Trail is a unique public-private partnership. Public agencies are often strapped by budget constraints and lack of staff. Our role is not just to be merely an advocate but a true partner and make this project a success for everyone. We have had great support from all the cities, the two counties (Napa and Solano) Agriculture, the Wine industry and the Tourism industry. Our Board has representatives from over thirty organizations ranging from the Arts to the Sherriff’s office. Our Board understands that this is a transformational project and a legacy we can leave for the future residents and visitors to the beautiful Napa Valley.
The Vine Trail Coalition not only provides philanthropic funds, but we have assisted agencies with grant writing (we have raised over $12 million in federal and state grants in the past four years). We can move faster as a nimble organization consisting of 1.5 full time staff. We also do a lot of the planning. I am a licensed Landscape Architect and have been involved in trail and park planning for over forty years. I prepared the original feasibility study in 2008 and so have been intimately involved in the project since day one. We supervise engineering, prepare feasibility studies, negotiate right of way easements from willing property owners, developed an interpretive signage program, which we will be unveiling in July, celebrating Napa Valley heritage, culture and history. We are involved in developing programs for Health, Arts and Education on the Vine Trail. Most recently, as the Vine Trail Coalition, we took on a major construction project with the city of Napa of half a mile of the trail including installing an 83- foot long prefabricated bridge. We completed that project in sixty- five days in time for the preview ride. We did so because our primary public sector partner, the Napa Valley Transportation Authority was not able to. We now own a bridge which we will soon be giving to the City of Napa.
Our biggest challenge is that the Vine Trail crosses through thirteen different public jurisdictions (cities, town, counties, special districts, State Parks, Caltrans and Napa College), each with their own set of rules, philosophies and budgetary challenges. As the Vine Trail Coalition we do not own any of the trail and so we have to encourage the different entities to work together. In Napa Valley, the Vine Trail connects tall the jurisdictions like no other project. It is important to see the Vine Trail as a single “brand” and an identity which unites. We have prepared a Trail Maintenance White Paper which we hope to get everyone on the same page.
To address budgetary issues, the Vine Trail Coalition has set up a Maintenance fund endowment of $1.3 million which will help fund maintenance and long term repairs. Our goal is to grow that fund to $7.5 million by the time the 47 miles are complete. This is a totally unique approach. I am unaware of any other trail organization which has done this.
What are the next key milestones in 2016 to move this Napa Valley Vine Trail project forward?
We are thrilled to have received the $6.1 million grant to construct the 9- mile Vine Trail from Calistoga to St Helena. It was the largest single grant awarded in the nine Bay Area counties and a testament of how visionary this project is and how we can deliver what we say we can. The goal is to complete this section by 2020.
We are also working with property owners to close the gap between St Helena and Yountville. We hope to have some exciting news on this later this year.
Through our partner at Solano county transportation Authority and city of Vallejo we are applying for grant funds to complete the Vine Trail between the City of Vallejo and the City of American Canyon. The City of American Canyon is constructing a quarter mile section of the Vine Trail this summer.
How can someone living in Napa Valley or outside Napa Valley support this effort?
The Vine Trail has to raise $2.5 million in private funding for the Calistoga to St Helena phase of this project and $800,000 towards the connection of American Canyon and Vallejo phase. If people would like to become one of our funding partners you can contact us at (707) 252 3547 or through our web site at vinetrail.org. We appreciate all donations. Also like us on Facebook and keep up to date with our progress.