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Tracing Tracy Territory

Tracy’s potential for water recreation still unrealized

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Tracyite John Giehl asked several weeks ago in this column if anyone was interested in forming a rowing club in Tracy.

The answer, John reports, is no.

“We didn’t have any positive responses,” he informed me, voicing disappointment about receiving not only no yeses, but not a single reply of any kind.

John, who started rowing as a student at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, had hoped there would at least be some interest because of Tracy’s proximity to Delta waterways north and east of town.

The complete lack of interest surprised me a bit. I thought there might be a handful of people, possibly some from the Bay Area, who had been active in rowing in the past and wanted to try it again. There were none.

Discussing the possibility of a rowing club for Tracy may, at the very least, have revived a question asked occasionally during decades past: How can Tracy take advantage of recreational opportunities afforded by the nearby Delta?

The development of a lineal natural-habitat park on the south bank of the Old River just north of town was proposed. It piqued the interest of some people, but also prompted an immediate and negative response by those living and farming near the river. The opponents pointed to the probability of people camping out on or near the levees, spreading trash around and disrupting riverside tranquility.

No doubt there could be problems, but there are also could be positive outcomes. A lot would depend on how the park was designed, developed and managed.

Discussion of developing a natural-habitat park fronting on the west bank of Sugar Cut just north of the now-closed Holly Sugar factory remains on hold, according to Brian McDonald, the city’s director of parks and recreation. Access to the area is one of the problems.

Instead, the city is looking into developing city-owned park land just south of Legacy Fields on the west side of Tracy Boulevard. So far, those plans have yet to be refined into specific plans, but they are still alive, he reported.

There have been attempts in the past to make more use of Delta waterways. In the 1920 and ’30s, the Tracy Wildlife Association took over Oak Island on the Old River, building a clubhouse, camping areas, barbecue pits and a skeet-shooting complex. The wildlife association is still in existence and continues as a members-only facility with new members needing to be proposed by existing members.

Oak Island has a number of well-maintained facilities, mostly catering to recreational vehicle camping. Described in the club’s website as “a hidden gem nestled in the trees on a small island overlooking the Old River portion of the Delta,” Oak Island stands as an example of what might be possible for public facilities in the nearby Delta.

The same holds true for the Golden Anchor Boat Club, located near Oak Island on the eastern bank of Sugar Cut. It started as a facility for boaters in the 1950s and ’60s, mostly those with small boats powered by outboard motors, but the club now mostly caters to RV folks.

The Eagal Lakes resort east of town on the San Joaquin River is a good example of what a commercial development can offer. It is described as “a private members-only outdoor fitness and recreation area with almost 150 acres of beaches, lakes, groomed trails, and riparian habitat.”

Delta waterways are beckoning to people in our area. Responding in a positive, workable manner to create public recreational facilities that realize the potential lying at our doorstep has proved difficult, but it shouldn’t be written off as impossible.

Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at

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