Planning Process and Community Engagement

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Beginning in Spring 2020, the Planning Department will be facilitating an expansive engagement process to collect feedback from throughout the community, and to establish consensus around the trail’s physical and programmatic features. Through the Merced River Trail Community Speaker + Engagement Series, people who are passionate about and interested in the project can both shape the project’s vision, goals, principles, and priorities, and learn about the Merced River corridor’s singular cultural and ecological assets. Part lecture, part workshop, these events rely on the expansive knowledge of local experts in topics like the Native American history, botany, and wildlife characteristics of the river canyon, and invite interested stakeholders to share their thoughts in a variety of ways throughout the planning process.

To help develop and implement the trail’s engagement program, the county has empaneled an official advisory committee called the Merced River Trail Community Working Group (CWG). In addition to providing crucial technical expertise on topics related to trail planning, the CWG ensures that the Community Speaker + Engagement Series is reaching a diversity of stakeholders from throughout the county, and asking the right questions to effectively imagine and implement a shared vision for the trail. You can learn more about the group and stay up to date with their meetings here. Be sure to select " Merced River Trail Community Working Group" from the drop down box under " Meeting Group".

While the series provides opportunities to participate in the process in person, community members do not need to attend the events to weigh in on the projects. After each event, the engagement materials will be posted below, so that those who weren’t able to make it to the event can print out and complete the exercises from home and return them to the Planning Department. Hard copies will also be available at the Planning Department’s offices.

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Merced River Trail Community Speaker + Engagement Series

This space will be updated as the series unfolds. Check back for updates and recordings from the events, and feel free to reach out to Mikey Goralnik at the Mariposa County Planning Department. 

Dialogue #1: Native American Sense of Place + Project Vision // February 26, 2020

Irene A. Vasquez is the secretary for the American Indian Council of Mariposa County (Southern Sierra Miwuk Nation) and an expert in eco-cultural uses of native plants. Learn about the river canyon’s place in generations of indigenous history, while shaping the Merced River Trail Master Plan’s guiding vision and aspirations.

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Vision Exercise

At the February workshop, participants completed an exercise to determine the project vision for the Merced RIver Trail master plan. If you weren’t able to make it to the workshop but would still like to participate in the process, never fear! 

You can download Irene Vasquez’s presentation, “Wakaalmuto,” here. Please refrain from reproducing any of the images without Ms. Vasquez’s consent. 

Dialogue #2: Ecological Identity + Project Goals // December 14, 2020 

At the December 2020 workshop, Rob Grasso provided an overview of some key wildlife species in the Merced River canyon, and identified several important wildlife- and habitat-related issues to deeply consider through the trail planning process. Additionally,  county staff shared a link to an online survey to collect input on the project’s goals. 

 The presentation was recorded and is available to watch back here, while the presenters’ slides can be downloaded from the links below. 

Mariposa County Planning Department Slides. shown here.

Rob Grasso Slides shown here

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El Portal Open House #1 // January 7, 2021


At this online Open House-type event, members of the Merced River Trail Community Working Group, Mariposa County staff, and Supervisor Smallcombe met with members of the El Portal, Foresta, and Incline communities to hear input, suggestions, and ideas for the Merced River Trail. 

 You can view a recording of the event here


 At the March 2021 event, Ralph Mendershausen discussed the history of community leadership and river conservation initiatives in the watershed, and reflect on their significance for the current trail planning effort. Afterwards, an open house discussion about the trail project will follow. You can view a recording of the event here

 In advance of his presentation, Mr. Mendershausen provided the below materials to support his remarks. These materials were developed solely by Mr. Mendershausen, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Mariposa County, the Mariposa County Planning Department, or the Merced River Trail Community Working Group. You can download them by clicking on the respective links: 

Timeline of Significant Events

Benefits and Lessons Learned

Key Takeaways for the Trail Project

Politics, Social Change, and Organization

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On June 15, California transitioned to beyond the blueprint framework, which made it possible for community members to come together in person for an event at the Midpines Community Hall. The event was structured as an open house to share the results and outcomes of the recent community survey on the project’s goals. Members of the Merced River Trail Community Working Group and County staff were on hand to discuss how community feedback informed the adopted project goals, and provided updates on the next steps in the visioning process.

 County staff gave a short presentation at the beginning of the open house, the slides for which are available hereAdditionally, a summary handout of how the draft goals were modified in response to the survey’s input was made available to meeting attendees, and can be viewed at this link Survey Outcome Summary