Mariposa Creek Parkway

Photo of women standing around and beside their outdoor engagement installation

Partnering with the Mariposa Arts Council to form a Creative Placemaking Advisory Council, the Mariposa County Planning Department created an artist-led plan to develop a new multi-use trail that celebrates the community’s cultures and ecology.

The challenge

Mariposa County occupies 1,463 square miles of the Sierra Nevada foothills, sitting at the western gateway to Yosemite National Park. Mariposa County’s proximity to the park, as well as its rich, well-preserved history, roots an engaging sense of place and supports an economy that depends on tourism. The rural community hosts over one million annual visitors, and it faces a range of demographic and transportation issues. Relative to the state (17%), Mariposa County has a significantly higher proportion of residents 60 and older (39%). The county’s prevalence of obesity (24.4%) also ranks among California’s highest. While the town of Mariposa features pockets of dense, walkable fabric, the bulk of the county is defined by largely auto-centric land use patterns which, when coupled with extraordinary congestion from park visitors, severely limit mobility and prevent the creation of a sense of place.

In December 2017, Mariposa County received a $235,729 grant from the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to address a range of active and multi-modal transportation enhancement activities, including aesthetic improvements and community design work geared towards the Mariposa Parkway. This grant was jointly administered by the Planning and Public Works Departments in the spring of 2018 to support the creation of the Mariposa Creek Parkway, which runs parallel to Mariposa’s Main Street. By partnering with artists and cultural organizations, the County engaged town residents in the design of the Parkway to ensure that it serves to reflect the County’s culture and values.

In 2018, SGA led a two day State-of-the-Art transportation training for Mariposa community leaders, educating artists and arts administrators on transportation and planning practice, while simultaneously training engineers and planners on artistic practice. The training led to Mariposa County winning more state funding to pursue the expansion of the next phases of the Creek Parkway.

The project

In 2019-2020, SGA again partnered with Mariposa County and Sacramento-based Atlas Lab to produce a county-wide creative placemaking master plan. Rather than solely providing written recommendations in a plan, the project included several demonstration projects to test ideas and practice collaboration amongst Mariposan artists, designers, and culture bearers.

The project included three demonstration projects:

This Must Be the Place

“This Must Be the Place” consists of a call for images and stories on social media, which asks Mariposans to submit photos and stories of their favorite places in Mariposa County.

Ah-Lo’-Mah’

Ah-Lo’-Mah’ consists of two temporary outdoor installations along the Mariposa Creek Parkway. These installations ask questions about Mariposa’s identity, relationship to place, and the stories that make Mariposa unique. Mariposa County is the ancestral land of the Southern Sierra Miwuk who have lived in and depended on the area’s diverse landscape for generations. Like many indigenous cultures, the Southern Sierra Miwuk’s close relationship to the land has led to a mastery of various techniques for using natural materials in ways that nurture the ecosystems, like the Mariposa Creek Corridor.

Ah-Lo’-Mah’, which means “basket” in Miwuk, draws on the Southern Sierra Miwuk traditions of basket making, a practice that combines environmental stewardship, collaborative fabrication, and artistic expression to convey both the beauty of the county’s natural landscape and the richness of Miwuk cultural history and identity.

Seed Share

Located on the Mariposa Creek Parkway, Seed Share invites County residents to extend the Mariposa Creek corridor to the larger community by taking some of the native seeds that are shared in this installation. The Mariposa Creek corridor is a riparian area with a unique ecology. The environmental processes that take place here — hydrologic function, nutrient and water cycling, and the constant movement of energy downstream — create nourishing ecosystems that sustain many beautiful native species, while refreshing and protecting the community from fire, flooding, and drought. Mariposa’s first human inhabitants, the Southern Sierra Miwuk, continue to use the creek’s native riparian species to meet a variety of traditional cultural, physical and spiritual needs.

The Results

Progress on Mariposa County’s ambitious plan to connect the town of Mariposa to Yosemite via a multi-use trail continues, with with new funding arriving on the heels of the completed County-wide Creative Placemaking Master Plan. In 2021, Mariposa County received a $400,000 grant to remove invasive species from the newest portions of the Mariposa Creek Parkway by using traditional ecological practices of cultural burning, and revegetate with native riparian plants. The County also received $4.6 million from Caltrans to build phase three of the Creek Parkway as well as pedestrian improvements to connect the town of Mariposa with the phase 3 trailhead. Additional pedestrian improvements and public art are being considered for additional parts of the County.

Key partners: Mariposa County Planning Department, Mariposa Arts Council, Atlas Lab, Smart Growth America, Southern Miwuk Nation

Solution #4: Engaging multiple stakeholders for an inclusive process

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