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Stage Coach Lane pathway makes slow progress

Constructing a pathway along Stage Coach Lane from Reche Road to South Mission Road has been a proposed project for Fallbrook since it was discussed at a virtual Fallbrook Revitalization Committee meeting, Nov. 16, 2020, but the project has not progressed very far since then.

Part of the reason is that in order for a pathway or trail to be constructed, funding must be obtained and the right-of-way must be secured by the county. The proposed pathway is about two miles long.

The Fallbrook Community Planning Group officially endorsed the pathway at its Jan. 18, 2021, meeting and a feasibility study was the next step in the process. In July of the same year, FCPG made the pathway its top priority for funding from Park Land Development Ordinance fees.

The May 16, 2022, meeting of the FCPG included a presentation with updated information about the potential pathway or trail along Stage Coach Lane and a planning group vote restating the community priority for such a pathway or trail.

An 11-0 vote approved a motion requesting that the county's Department of Public Works continue to work on the preliminary engineering report, potential funding including PLDO revenue, provide updates to the planning group, work on width and safety issues, make the portion between Reche Road and Brooke Road the first phase of the project (which is expected to be constructed in phases), and avoid a pathway or trail alignment which requires crossing the street.

"It's a very important project to the community," said Stephani Baxter, who chairs the planning group's Parks and Recreation Committee.

Pathways are within the right of way of a road, and PLDO funding cannot be used for pathways. Trails are outside of the right of way. So, some of the Stage Coach Lane trail or pathway may be ineligible for PLDO funding. The planning group acknowledged that possibility but still designated the trail or pathway as the highest priority.

"We wanted to continue to have the Stage Coach trail and pathway on the list so the county does know the importance of it," said planning group chair Eileen Delaney.

All along, Baxter has been keeping in touch with Cynthia Curtis, project manager, Capital Improvements Program, County of San Diego, Dept. Public Works, and DPW group program manager and lead project manager Chris Hanger.

In August 2023, Curtis let Baxter know that their SANDAG Active Transportation Program grant application for the project was denied. "Our project team was disappointed, but have the materials prepared to apply for other funding opportunities," Curtis wrote in an email.

Curtis also wrote, "Design has slowed a bit, the road right-of-way verification showing the County-owned easement is difficult along Stage Coach Lane, with some areas completely outside of the paved road. We have some draft alignments, and are awaiting the revalidation of the road right-of-way for the segment in front of the high school to complete the exhibit. I will circle back with our survey team on progress."

In October 2023, as FCPG was preparing to submit its PLDO and Circulation Priority Lists, Baxter asked Curtis and Hanger for an update regarding Stage Coach Lane, saying, "The equestrian community is weighing in with a strong desire for safe trail connectivity to be restored and now is a perfect time to study the opportunity for this!"

Curtis responded that "the preliminary engineering phase is active, we are still awaiting right-of-way verification on the portion of the project in front of the high school. The right-of-way component is with our Real Property group and is in their workflow queue to verify the legal bounds of property lines - we can't proceed with design without this information."

The FCPG approved another priority list for PLDO funding, Nov. 20, 2023, which was to be provided to the county's Department of Parks and Recreation.

A mixed-use decomposed granite trail or pathway along Stage Coach Lane from Reche Road to South Mission Road is the top priority. The second-highest priority is also a trail or pathway which would be along Gird Road between Reche Road and state Route 76.

Checking in again with Curtis in early February for a progress report, Baxter wrote, "As you know, this project is critical for safety. We're grateful for an update and Fallbrook is ready to support and help however needed to get this going."

Curtis replied, "We have received the ROW verification and it presents some challenges moving forward. The road easement does not align with the current road/shoulder limits in the aerial. This is an issue not unique to Fallbrook. Due to our unit's staff shortage, work has slowed on this project although we do understand the importance to the community. Chris and I will work together to keep visibility on this project, including funding opportunities. We will continue to keep in touch."

In summing up the project to the Village News, Baxter said, "In short, the ROW verification presents challenges. Not abnormal for Fallbrook." She also noted the recent accident on Stage Coach Lane in which a student, who was hit by a car, "was life flighted to Rady's Children's Hospital and suffered a broken collar bone. There were other student witnesses.County DPW and DPR have been made aware of the incident."

Baxter added, "Many local Fallbrook groups have formally supported this project. Concerned residents are encouraged to email our District 5 County Supervisor, [email protected], in support of prioritizing this project.

Joe Naiman contributed to this article.


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