Mobility and Vargas Plateau

Now that I have my fancy new work cell phone, I sometimes spend my days driving around town and kibitzing in Fremont Coffee shops.

Earlier today, I drove up the Morrison Canyon Road while holding a camera to get a feel for just how narrow it is. Morrison Canyon is one of the two access roads to the still unopened Vargas Plateau Regional Park.

Park neighbors say the access roads are too narrow to service a park and have filed a lawsuit that has stopped the park from opening. My very amateur video of the drive is below.

I’ve spent most of this afternoon at Mission Coffee, where Ishan Shah has been sitting across from me. He’s reading the Iliad, but today he has more pressing concerns than Homer or Fremont politics. I’ll say one thing for Ishan after hanging out with him today: The kid’s got guts.

But does he have the courage to drive up Morrison Canyon Road and mumble into a cell phone for more than ten minutes? That is the measure of a man. If only there was a Pulitzer for best monotone.

Matt Artz


  1. Mobile reporting is exciting.

    I don’t see that road being widened. They should make Morrison Canyon Rd resident traffic only and access to the future park bike and hike only.

  2. Matt,
    Thanks for the ride and a look at Vargas Plateau. I now better understand why the park is not open.
    I wish Fremont would stop there bureaucratic bullshit and fix the road.
    Of course the people who live on the road want no access to the park, period.

  3. I ride my bike up Morrison 3x a week and it is way too narrow for the yahoos that drive around here. There is a nice unused piece of land on Canyon heights near Vallejo Mill school they can turn into a parking lot and let people hike / bike up to the park. Already we get too many people driving up this road to drink / smoke and watch the Sunset then drive back down in altered states. They are a menace to cyclists let alone other drivers.

  4. wow, haven’t been up there in years…. i remember racing my ’67 Mustang up that road in high school and i swear i almost died at least a dozen times. 🙂

    great video Matt, what kind of smart phone do you have?

  5. Make the trip up there when the weather is working real hard. Haven’t had the chance to make the drive in a thunderstorm – but, would do it in a New York minute if conditions were right. I’ve been up there with my camera when a front is moving on shore – or when the fog is coming on after a hot spell – – – there’s some really, really great evening light that you get up there.

  6. Matt:

    If/when the area is opened up, the barn may be used for a nature museum. Just a bit further in, there’s a great view over Quarry Lakes. Next time I hear of a group scheduled for a hike up on Vargas Plateau, I’ll let you know. Re: the video…hey, Ken Burns also had to start out!

  7. Here’s a radical idea: make it walking/hiking and bicycle access only – except the disabled and service vehicles (sure would cut down on crime!).

  8. Or should I say “There’s” a radicle idea (just read the earlier posts. Right on!

  9. Credit EBMUD with the vision to purchase the land and the understanding of its value for the present and future generations. Then provide access to the Vargas via the Mission Clay property, 100 acres that is bordered by the Vargas on one side and the Niles/Sunol Railroad on the other; AND provide access to the Mission Clay “staging area and nature center” via the Sunol/Niles Railroad. Sell passes that include the RR trip (share the revenue with them). The M.C. site is mostly flat land. Develope Mission Clay with all the horns and whistles. Speaking of whistles, there are two whistle stops already located at the M.C. site where the railroad can use to load and off/load passengers. Put in a restaurant, gift shop, docent center, amphitheatre for events, running water, lights, camping area, bike and hike center, and ….. I think you get the idea. Then for access up the hill for minimal impact use the Oakland Park concept of the tramway for those who need it and for lite hauling of necessary material and supplies (Thanks Bill M. for that idea). Build everything using ecologically sensitive material including the clay from the area for “rammed earth and hay bale” construction (Thanks Margaret M., pres. of FCAC for that one.). Create a nursery of native plants (Thank the folks at CalNurco and Niles Nursery for that inspiration.). Expand the weekend recreational/educational activities to include seminars of the area’s history (Thanks Al M. and Paul W. of Transcontinental Connections for that). Also use the Center for Theatrical/Cultural/Muscial/Art classes and events (Thanks to Dino Labiste of Coyote Hills Park, all the folks at the FAA, all the folks and members of the FCAC, and all the folks at the Historical Society for an index of ideas from A-Z). Go the extra mile and take advantage of the wind and sun to develope energy resources from them (thanks Mother Nature!); get corporate sponsorhip for as many projects as possible as this site will attract national attention. Remember that a spur from the Transcontinental Railroad still connects into the Mission Clay property. The Chochenyo Ohlone people who are still here, in case you haven’t heard, might want to have a say in what takes place on the land; their grinding rocks are still found among the stone outcrops and the stone outcrops were at one time among the groves of oaks that are now gone having been used as fire wood for the steam boats that came into the bay so long ago. We do live in a world where good things are possible, where the imagination can be useful in creating solutions to complex problems, where the community can come together and from its diverse elements create a wholesome unifying project. Until you take into account the Niles/Sunol Railroad and the Mission Clay site none of what I am saying will make any sense. You have just got to go see it. Well, that’s my 2 cents.

  10. Morrison Cyn Rd can not support two way auto traffic. The road is single lane in most places; two lanes wide almost nowhere. Large vehicles or trailers find it impassable. The Argus News keeps claiming that Morrison is 10′-14′ wide. That is incorrect. Sections below the “bridge” were measured and marked as narrow as 7’4″ (curb to escarpment). The road is well under 10′ wide for most of the first 1/2 mile of climbing.

    There is no need to put a parking lot at the top of Morrison. That place is all about being outdoors, hearing and seeing and feeling the place. I have seen fox, coyote, bobcat, deer, turkeys, hawks, eagles, vultures, falcons, cattle herds and a zillion things there. I encourage everyone to walk up Morrison Canyon Road. Its awesome. Hikers can hike it. Ride it for a good lung sear. Please don’t drive it.

    …and while we’re waiting, just open the trails to MTBs.

  11. Like Lance sez!

    I bike the canyon regularly as well and generally find drivers to be courteous and alert but the road is *narrow* in places and it wouldn’t take much to put someone down in the bottom. I don’t think there’s much prospect for widening the existing road from Mission Blvd to the Vargas split.

    I’d like to see
    -open the park for mountain bikes ASAP

    -continue auto access from Vargas/680 (with improvements to the last stretch up Morrison Canyon)

    -turn the existing Mission BlvdVargas Split section into a bike/emergency vehicle/hike route.

    -complete a driveable/bikeable route to Mission Peak/Ohlone college (NO 680 stretch!)

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