Community Voices

Union Pacific Trail advocates hold peaceful demonstration asking to use the $1.78 million grant for its intended purpose

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.

Outside city hall, the residents who spoke up were briefly interviewed and filmed for a Telemundo broadcast. Observer and Titan reporters were also at the meeting.

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





19 replies »

  1. Did campaign contributions to the three voting no on the trail have something to do with this?

    Jung: On 11/09/2022 George and Tony Bushala each gave $4,900 to the Fred Jung campaign.
    Odd since Jung is not up for re-election until 2024.
    Their PAC (Political Action Committee) Fullerton Taxpayers for Reform (major donor Tony Bushala) also supported Jung’s initial 2020 campaign with $12,630 worth of “independent” phone bank, postcard mailers and robocalls supporting Jung – and spent $45,757 in mailers, phone banks, robocalls, lawn signs, and Facebook ads opposing Jung’s opponent in the District 1 campaign.

    Whitaker: District 4 Councilmember Bruce Whitaker was supported by the PAC in his 2020 election with $6,078 worth of mailers and phone banks while spending $21,114 against his opponent. (This is down from the $67,447 the PAC spent supporting Whitaker in his 2012 election).
    (Although Whitaker is termed out from running in 2024 due to a Fullerton term limits ordinance there are rumors the group is trying to figure a way around that problem. Stay tuned)

    Dunlap: George Bushala contributed $2000 and Tony Bushala contributed $4000 to newcomer Dunlap’s first election in 2020. He is up for re-election in 2024.

    PAC money will be something to watch for in the 2024 election as the new 1439 amendment states that officials must recuse themselves from voting on issues connected to any direct donor contributing $250 or more within a year after the contribution was made (unfortunately, this new law only covers contributions beginning from Jan 2023.)

    PACs, however are still unregulated. So, in the upcoming election watch out for robbocalls, mailers, including slate mailers, internet ads and even yard signs. Don’t be fooled again. Be aware of who is really putting the information out and whether it is false. Many of the groups putting out such material have very tricky names meant to fool voters.

    All this info and more comes from required 460, 461, 496, & 497 reports and is available online on the city website under Government/Departments/City Clerk/Elections/Campaign/ Campaign Disclosure Statements

  2. Saskia thanks for being honest on the comment. Wish the remainder of your newsletter were the same.

    • Please explain what you believe is not honest about the article. I will correct anything that I got wrong.

  3. How does this story magically change publishing dates from September to October 3 just in time for a City Council meeting? More games from the Observer!

    • That is correct Ronald. We want to make sure people are reminded that there is a City Council meeting tonight and a community effort to change at least one mind of the Council Majority that voted to use the Union Pacific Trail grant for something else. Of course we do not know the something else they want to use the money for.

    • I wonder what your comment means. I saw no students there. I was there, and I’m not a student.

      • There were three students at the city council meeting. Thank you for being there.

        • My mistake. Thank you for correcting me. I’m still not sure what Jim Henry’s comment means.

  4. Half of these people that are protesting are probably not going to even walk this trail. Why not use the grant money on something better than this trail?

    • If you ask for money for a specific reason and area then the money can only be used for that. It is like asking your parents for money to buy a car and instead you buy a diamond ring. Do you think your parents would be happy? Also, if you repeatedly ask for help and then turn down the help – eventually no-one will offer help. Same thing goes for a grant.

      • It’s also like when you’re a parent and you tell your kids no and they throw tantrums because they didn’t get their way… something similar is what’s going on here!

        • It’s really not. Council majority are not our parents. Council majority gave up over a million in park funds for absolutely nothing. It’s foolishness. That doesn’t just happen. Perhaps they are responding to the business interests that run along the proposed trail, and they are just not admitting it.

          Maybe there is some other reason.

          But I don’t believe they are being honest about their reasons.

          • Why don’t you have a conversation with the Council other than at a Council meeting or a protest?

            Since the option 3 did say to use the money on a different project, give some better ideas to use the money on… like Union Park which was motioned.

            • The grant was for this project. It is not available for any other project.

              The Option 3 bit about pursuing another project was thrown in simply to seem reasonable… to placate and to patronize. It’s not reasonable, when you understand that the grant application was already made and approved for the trail project only.

            • Union Pacific Park is already on the way to opening and does not require the $1.78 million that is specifically for constructing the greenspace trail. I agree with John there is something going on that the greater public is not aware of that may have to do with business interests. If it is a good thing for the city (and apparently the three council members think it is a better option than the trail) why the secrecy?

    • 1. Conjecture, you don’t know that
      2. The point of the trail is the people that will use it whether they were there advocating or not
      3. You can’t just move grant money to something like else. It’s take it or leave it at this point. Some other city will get it if we leave it.