Paradise Lost…

Look what turned up in my Facebook Newsfeed this morning: some very bad news to start a Sunday.

Paradise Lost: A Casino Ruins Some Great Riding Roads

Harrah’s Northern California Casino will be located on the Buena Vista Tribe reservation land in Amador County, approximately 1 mile south of the town of Buena Vista, 5 miles southeast of the city of Ione, 28 miles northeast of the City of Stockton, and 32 miles southeast of the City of Sacramento. The location is complementary to Caesars Entertainment’s existing portfolio and is expected to generate strong visitation and excellent financial returns.

This casino has been in the works for years, but until now a combination of over saturation in the gaming ‘industry’ and local opposition has managed to give cyclists hope that the project would never be built. Hopes that look dashed by today’s news.

The casino is going to be located on Coal Mine Road, about 7 miles south of Ione and literally in the middle of some of the best cycling roads we ride. It looks like a large project. The press release release states “The 71,000 square-foot property is expected to open in 2019, and will include 950 state-of-the-art slots, 20 table games, one full-service restaurant and three fast-casual dining concepts.”

The area boarded by Highways 88, 12, 26 and 49 contains Comanche and Pardee Reservoirs. There are some pretty quiet and lovely cycling roads in this area. South Comanche Parkway, Chili Camp Road,  Campo Seco Road, Jackson Valley Road, North Comanche Parkway, Curran Road, Reservation Road (oh, the irony) and Stoney Creek Road. And of course there is Coal Mine Road itself.  And the new casino is almost in the center of all this quiet country. All of these roads can expect huge increases in traffic, turning a quiet cycling mecca into an area to avoid on two wheels.

I have ridden Coal Mine Road in both directions at least 25 times a year since 2007. Our Thursday Club ride does it almost every week. From North to South it is a short but steep climb, with wonderful views of Jackson Valley to the West. This road carries so little traffic that I am certain that once the casino opens I will encounter more cars during one ascent than I did in all my previous climbs  added together.  Assuming I even try to deal with the increased traffic instead of seeking more placid pavement.

I don’t mind if people want to gamble, but the crazy interactions between Federal, State and Tribal law allow a huge enterprise to be built in a completely rural and pastoral setting. No other large business would ever be permitted in this location; the rural zoning would not allow it. Why not build the casino closer to the customers? Doesn’t anyone care about the carbon footprint of all the Sacramento and Bay Area gamblers driving to this remote location? How about an environmental impact report? Open space issues? Wouldn’t downtown Stockton be an excellent location for this type of business?

The people at Caesars Entertainment are not stupid, they expect this casino to succeed, and it probably will. One cost of that success is that some bucolic cycling routes are being destroyed.  I’m really going to miss those roads.



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