Clovis Builds Dry Creek Trailhead to Educate and Connect the Community

The City of Clovis won the Award for Excellence in the Planning and Environmental Quality category of the 2015 Helen Putnam Award for Excellence program. For more about the award program, visit

The City of Clovis has seen its population more than double since 1990 to 104,339 today. Located in the heart of the agriculturally rich San Joaquin Valley, Clovis depends on groundwater and surface water for its water supply. Faced with the ongoing multiyear drought, city leaders were increasingly concerned about improving water management and providing open space for a growing population.

Education and Recreation Go Hand in Hand

Recognizing an opportunity to demonstrate sustainable water management practices to protect natural resources, Clovis built the Dry Creek Trailhead as a community recreation area to educate residents about water conservation and groundwater recharge. The project connects to an extensive trail system and encourages trail use.

The City of Clovis worked with the Fresno Irrigation District during the planning process to transform an unimproved lot adjacent to the existing trail system. The lot was a public nuisance due to flooding problems and illegal dumping. The Clovis Community Foundation and Tree Fresno, a local nonprofit organization, provided support on the trailhead’s design and development, and the city conducted public hearings to obtain community input.

The sustainable design of the three-acre trailhead includes native drought-tolerant trees and hardscape surfacing designed to look like a local farm, complete with granite outcroppings, stacked stone walls, a windmill and a water well that hides a drain inlet. Informational plaques explain the area’s agricultural and water history.

The Dry Creek Trailhead opened to the public Nov. 15, 2014. Its amenities include bike repair stations, bike racks, seating walls, tables, benches, pedestrian trail bridges, drinking fountains, a parking lot and restroom facilities.

Water Conservation Is a Key Element

“It’s a water-efficient open space and uses about 10 percent of the water that would normally be used in a park of this size,” says Dwight Kroll, director of planning and development for the City of Clovis. “Water savings are estimated at about 3 million gallons per year.”

The trailhead includes a stormwater retention and detention system installed below the parking lot. Excess stormwater flows into drain inlets at various locations at the trailhead and then into the underground storage chambers. The chambers hold up to 197,000 gallons of stormwater and allow water to percolate into the ground to recharge the aquifer.

“Water is a finite and valuable resource not to be squandered. This trailhead meets the challenges for responsible water use,” says Clovis City Engineer Steve White. “This project also shows that aesthetics and community open space can happen without grass and shrubs; it will set the bar for future projects seeking to preserve our water resources.”

Water conservation remains the most reliable drought management tool, according to White. He says, “With the snowpack growing in the Sierra and rain totals rising statewide in recent months, it may be easy to forget California is still in the grip of a significant drought. Clovis is prepared for rain events. The stormwater that accumulates at the trailhead is collected to soak into the thirsty ground.” After a 1.27-inch rain event on Dec. 21–22, 2015, the trailhead had no standing water, and the chambers held 5 inches of rainwater. Daily inspections showed that the stormwater percolated into the ground at a rate of 4 inches per day.

Trail Connects Residents With the Community

The Dry Creek Trailhead also serves as a hub to connect residents to downtown Clovis, local transit, recreational destination points, places of business, retail and educational facilities and the adjacent City of Fresno. On-site maps show existing and planned trails in Clovis and the local area.

The community has welcomed the trailhead and the connecting trails. “It’s giving folks in Clovis a vital transportation alternative,” says Mark Keppler, chair of the Clovis Community Foundation. “These trails aren’t just for recreation.”

A Sustainable Source of Pride

The City of Clovis transformed a three-acre unimproved lot into an educational community recreation area that protects natural resources and promotes healthy living. The Dry Creek Trailhead encourages alternative transportation to improve the community’s health and reduce air pollution. It has become a source of pride for the community and demonstrates sustainable open space and water management practices.

Contact: Steven White, city engineer; phone: (559) 324-2355; email:

Photo credit: Courtesy of City of Clovis and League of California Cities

This article appears in the March 2016 issue of Western City
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