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Santa Cruz Makes Big Plans for Riverfront Changes

Published On: Jan 14 2014 01:31:22 AM CST
Updated On: Jan 15 2014 11:23:49 AM CST

Cleaning up crime and replacing it with pride for a community asset. That's the goal for one Central Coast city as it looks to improve the reputation of an important river. The City of Santa Cruz said its looking to rename and revamp the accessible areas of the San Lorenzo River with the intention of turning it into a destination spot. But it has a long way to go.

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. -

Cleaning up crime and replacing it with pride for a community asset.  That's the goal for one Central Coast city as it looks to improve the reputation of an important river.  The City of Santa Cruz said its looking to rename and revamp the accessible areas of the San Lorenzo River with the intention of turning it into a destination spot.  But it has a long way to go. 

In the past year alone, we've told you about several disturbing crime investigations along the river.  It's been a trouble spot for police.  This past summer police said a decomposed body was found near the river and in a separate case, a body was found floating in the river.

Now a local nonprofit is getting involved with the city, to get feedback from the community to make improvements.  A group called the San Lorezno River Alliance said it wants to help people see the riverfront in a different light.  The group said the San Lorenzo River has the potential to be as popular as some of the river cities seen in other parts of the country.

Music, fireworks and a place for families to spend time outdoors -- Santa Cruz said it's looking to get a piece of what Kansas City's Berkley Riverfront Park has to offer.

"So it’s not just say, preventing crime.  It's really about promoting positive good use," said Randy Widera with Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation Commission.

The city's parks and recreation commission said it plans to dust off a 10-year-old project called the San Lorenzo River Urban Plan, by giving the community a chance to speak up about what it would to see along the river.  The Coastal Watershed Council said it just launched the San Lorenzo River Alliance to work with the city, the county and other local groups to give the riverfront a whole new look and feel.

"We realize that a lot of other cities have a thriving urban river way and we have something that could be better," said Greg Pepping of San Lorenzo River Alliance.

The alliance said it wants to help groups organize outdoor activities year round like yoga, biking, kayaking and movies in a park.

"All types of events.  So that a year from now you'll say, 'I was down by the river three times in the last few months.'  Whereas that's probably not the case right now," Pepping said.

The city said it'll have to work with the Army Corps of Engineers to figure out what types of development could go in, whether they're permanent or just single-event vendors.  The alliance said the riverfront has a lot of potential to pave the way for economic development, while cleaning up the issues with crime at the same time.

"If people are down there, there are gonna be businesses wanting to cater to those people," Pepping said.

The alliance said it plans to hold meetings this spring, so anyone with ideas for the riverfront will get a chance to speak up.