Notes From September 19 Protest of Council Denial of UP Trail
Over 25 south Fullerton neighbors were joined by a handful of north Fullerton residents in a demonstration designed to urge the Council majority to reconsider their August 15 council decision to send back a $1.78 million urban greening grant rather than use it to construct Phase II of the Union Pacific Trail. The walking and biking trail is part of a 2012 plan to reuse the abandoned UP railway line, which will connect UP Park on Truslow downtown to Independence Park on W. Valencia and eventually connect to other trails. The grant to build the trail, which includes planting 176 native trees, landscaping, and trail amenities, was accepted by the council in 2020. However, Mayor Jung, Mayor Protem Whitaker, and Councilmember Dunlap directed staff to return the grant if the granting agency would not allow the grant to be used to open UP Park instead. According to grant language, that switch is not allowed.
UP Park has been closed to the public behind a chainlink fence for over ten years. Some residents are advocating for both the construction of the trail and the removal of the fencing around the park. Districts 4 & 5 have less parkland and no trails compared to park and land-rich north Fullerton.
A group of residents from all city districts gathered at the corner of Harbor and Commonwealth with signs protesting the council’s decision to kill the trail and walked to join others at city hall. Nearby District 5 south Fullerton residents once again told the council the positive impacts of open space greenery on their families’ health and how they had participated in several years of surveys, committees, and public participation meetings about the trail. No one spoke against the trail.
Dallany Garcia listed the improvements to south Fullerton over the last 20 years spearheaded by the Valencia Task Force group of residents working with a previous council, including safer lighting, additional stop signs, Woodcrest playground, and more. She urged the council to reverse its decision and use the grant to build the trail, “We are standing up for the health of our kids and don’t understand why the council doesn’t want to help us bring the green space we need,” she said.
Eglith Nuncci, a south Fullerton leader, speaking for a group of 14 residents, asked the council to respect the years of neighborhood and staff efforts on working to get the grant. She asked that just one of the three councilmembers voting no on the trail to reconsider. “We pay taxes; we want the bike and pedestrian path with lots of trees. Please listen to the community,” she said.
Many other individuals commented, urging the council to listen to the community, accept the grant, and build the trail, pointing out the benefits of fresh air greenspace. “We want everyone to be proud of your job, but we don’t think you are paying attention,” said a resident. “Please use the grant for what it is meant for,” said another. The woman who cried out at the previous council meeting after Jung, Whitaker, and Dunlap voted against the trail apologized for her outburst and asked Jung to explain his actions, “Why, when we come, do you ignore us?” She said that before the election, she believed everything Jung said, “But then you do the opposite,” she said.
Several residents of districts 1, 2, and 3 also spoke in favor of keeping the grant and building the trail. “It is hard to get grants from the state,” said one resident, “the people in favor of the trail are not only District 5 residents; it would make all of Fullerton nicer,” she said, also pointing out that opening trails in Coyote Hills was accepted without a grant and maintenance was not an issue. Another resident, Diane Vena, said she was heartbroken about sending the grant back, “This is a trail needed by all of us,” she said. “We live rushed and busy lives, and many live in apartments with no greenspace. The majority want the trail, and you must learn how to listen.”
Anjali Tapedia reminded the council that the Parks & Recreation Committee passed the trail plan unanimously, “This is part of a 20-year multiphase plan; the community wants it,” she said also pointing out her disappointment at the majority vote to cut off discussion on the options.
Advocates of UP Trail will be at the City Council meeting on October 3. All districts are encouraged to support the grant from Urban Greening to be used for its intended purpose of creating Phase II of the Union Pacific Trail.
Open space by District Measured in Acres
- District 1___________767.7
- District 2___________1,321.49
- District 3___________169.09
- District 4___________27.52
- District 5___________36.16