Assemblymember Adam Gray spearheads efforts to restore 6 miles of Bear Creek in Merced

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MERCED -- Recalling the days he spent playing football on the banks of Bear Creek, Assemblymember Adam Gray joined Merced city and county officials in announcing a $6 million restoration project on six miles of the waterway that flows through the city of Merced.

The money will be used to restore the creek from McKee Road to 16th Street in Merced. The funding will be used to help remove invasive plants, restore eroded banks and pay for cleanup of the creek bed and its banks. It is hoped the restoration will create a more hospitable wildlife habitat.

“When I was a kid, I used to come down here in this park and play football; I rode my bicycle on the bike trails,” said Gray, who spoke at a press conference on Tuesday in Albert Larson Park. “It was beautiful. By restoring this creek, we can pass this asset to the next generation.”

Gray said work already done by the city, Mayor Matthew Serratto and volunteers from the Bear Creek Yacht Club has been instrumental in setting the stage for state funding.

Mayor Serratto talked about restoring the connections that so many people from Merced once felt for Bear Creek.

“People talk about swimming in this creek,” said Serratto. “They talk about swimming in it and fishing in it. And a lot of folks talk about tubing on the creek. Adam called this a gem of the community; we’re of the same mind. We need to restore that gem and Adam has been instrumental in getting this done.”

The first phase of the project will begin with surveying then proceed to permitting, said city manager Stephanie Dietz, and require 12 to 18 months. The full restoration is expected to take up to 6 years.

“This is going to be an important project for the city but also for the entire county,” said Supervisor Josh Pedrozo. “The entire 6 miles that is being restored runs through my district, so it’s especially important to me. And having Adam as a partner has been very important.  He worked hard to make it happen. That vocal leadership in Sacramento makes sure we are heard. Without someone willing to raise his voice, we wouldn’t be.”

Gray spent a lot of time following the presentation talking to reporters who were getting a closer look at the creek, which included some floating debris near the presentation site.

“I am excited about the opportunities we have here,” said Gray. “We all share the desire to make this an enjoyable place for our community. It’s a gem. And we’ve got to make sure that everyone can use it and enjoy just as we did years ago.”