Today I launch an occasional series “If They Can Do It, Why Can’t We?” about things other cities did to spiff up their urban life. Things Stockton could do but, mysteriously, never does.
Let’s start with a good example of a waterfront attraction, something Stockton’s semi-vacant waterfront sorely needs: Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding.
“Turtle Bay Exploration Park has become the premier cultural and environmental educational center for Northern California,” boasts a park history.
Turtle Bay combines several museums, a hotel, public art, a restaurant and café, gift shop, botanical gardens, arboretums, hiking trails, and a wowser of an iconic bridge, all on Redding’s Sacramento River.
The bridge, called the Sundial Bridge, opened in 2004 as a “bold statement” by Spanish engineer Santiago Calatrava, is a pedestrian bridge, public artwork, and working sundial. It put Redding on the map.
The gleaming white, above-deck support tower thrusts up 217 feet at a dramatic angle, anchoring the bridge cables and doubling as the gnomon of a sundial.
Pedestrians cross a deck of translucent green glass embedded in steel to reach the north shore and some park attractions. En route, they experience the bridge’s aesthetic partner, so to speak, the beautiful Sacramento River.
Up there the Sacramento runs clean and cold, teeming with trout that make it popular for fly fishing anglers. The riverbed is not channeled nor is the bank urbanized. Hikers enjoy miles of trails.
For years longtime Stocktonian Mel Corren has promoted the idea of not one, but two bridges over Stockton’s inner harbor, a car bridge and a pedestrian bridge.
“Stockton is notorious for not being able to get from the north to the south,” Corren said. “Other cities have more bridges across channels and rivers than we have. Stockton would be a whole lot better if you could cross over from the north to the south side from Pershing (Avenue) or one of those streets.”
Such a vehicle bridge would ease travel to Stockton’s new City Hall, help residents of proposed south-bank housing to cross north, as well as help reinvigorate south Stockton, Corren said.
Corren also envisions a pedestrian bridge stretching from the Events Center — the arena, ballpark, and hotel — across McLeod Lake to Weber Point.
“Then you could go across the very, very end of the channel into town, catch a local bus and go anywhere in Stockton,” Corren said.
Either bridge would offer the opportunity to make an audacious aesthetic statement, one that would be visible to thousands of motorists crossing over the channel on I-5.
Turtle Bay came into being because Redding’s museums were all struggling and needed city subsidies. Merging them on the river near the foot of the bridge revived them.
The museum features science, art, and history; forestry; wildlife, including animal habitats, an aviary, and a self-guided “interpretive forest.”
The museum building also holds multipurpose rooms that host touring art and science exhibitions and are popular venues for community events.
Turtle Bay attracts around 1 million visitors a year, said Kim Niemer, Redding’s director of community services.
“The combination of the bridge and the museum — which opened up within a couple years of each other — really lifted Redding’s identity and reputation from being another Central Valley community to being a real city that has arts and entertainment, that takes pride in its riverfront,” Niemer said.
If Redding can do it, why can’t Stockton?
It’s easy to gainsay the idea. Redding is in a scenic part of California. Stockton, less so. The Sacramento River is clean. The San Joaquin at Stockton is a mess. Stockton’s economy is weak, its politics toxic, I had a flat tire, my dog ate it, etcetera. And when we’re done shooting down ideas, what’s left? A waterfront as newsworthy for fires as for a special waterfront experience.
An experience such as:
- A museum of immigration and Stockton ethnic diversity
- Of the Delta, including an aquarium
- Of the Gold Rush
“If we had makers events it would grab some energy in the museum and arts world,” said Susan Obert, CEO of The Haggin Museum.
- A museum of Stockton’s historic vice
- A boat house with classes and programs
- Your turn. Do the vision thing.
Fitzgerald’s column runs on Wednesdays. His views do not represent those of Stocktonia’s management and staff. On Twitter and Instagram as Stocktonopolis. Email: mfitzgeraldstockton@gmail