Monday, September 8, 2008

Rio Vista may play gateway role for the Delta

Rio Vista may play gateway role for the Delta
By Barry Eberling | DAILY REPUBLIC | September 05, 2008

The Rio Vista Bridge crosses the Sacramento River on the outskirts of town. The town is one of several mentioned in a state plan to attract more tourism dollars to the Delta. Photo by Chris Jordan

FAIRFIELD - Rio Vista can count Humphrey, Delta and Dawn -- three humpback whales that wandered up the Sacramento River from the ocean -- among its famous visitors over the past couple of decades.

Maybe the whales know something many humans don't. Whatever the reason, Solano County's smallest city with some 8,000 people hasn't been a tourist magnet.

That could change. California's proposals to transform the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta include having more people visiting the area, with their base being in communities along the Delta's edge rather than in its environmentally sensitive heart. A draft state plan mentions Rio Vista.

'I really think Rio Vista is ideal for a western, middle-of-the-Delta gateway,' City Councilwoman Jan Vick agreed.

Vickie Baumann of The Point restaurant in Rio Vista also sees the potential. The restaurant opened in 1964 and sits along the Sacramento River at the Delta Marina.

'It would be a big boost to Solano County if Rio Vista could become a gateway community and if there was funding to help Rio Vista grow,' she said.

Before Rio Vista can become a popular Delta gateway, the Delta itself might need a publicity boost. California's proposed Delta plan touches on that perceived problem.

'The Delta is one of the state's most distinct regions, combining a unique physical geography of island and river channels with a cultural heritage as enduring as any in California,' the draft plan states. 'The Delta possesses natural, historical and recreational resources of statewide and even national significance.

'But despite this fact, it is little known or recognized by most Californians, including many of millions living in the cities just outside the Delta's boundaries.'

That low profile comes even though the Delta provides water to 23 million Californians.

'It requires some really good P.R. to raise the public awareness that the Delta is more than a water conveyance,' Vick said.

The state is looking at ways to do just that. One idea is to have Congress designate the Delta a National Heritage Area to give it some tourism cache.

Another is to create a new state recreation area in eastern Solano County at Liberty and Prospect islands. That would give tourists in the western Delta a place to hike, fish and enjoy the outdoors.

Yet another is to have the state create special enterprise zones in gateway cities. Certain types of investments in the zones, such as welcome centers and recreational support services, could receive tax breaks.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.