McElheny Road between East Sixth Street and Fulton Shipyard Road, and Empire Mine Road between Mesa Ridge Drive and Deer Valley Road will continue to be closed until at least Sept. 13 of next year. McElheny Road was closed by the city in 2011, and Empire Mine Road has been closed to vehicle traffic since 2005. The city must revaluate the closures every 18 months.
“The type of crimes and the amount of dumping that we have had to respond to has been a lot better,” said Antioch Public Works Director Ron Bernal.
After gates were constructed to deter access to the two locations, the Antioch Police Department (APD) has seen a sharp decrease in the number of calls for service to the two areas.
Since gates were installed 100 feet north of East Sixth Street and 200 feet north of the Burlington-Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad tracks about 18 months ago, the APD has received 14 calls for service compared to 53 the five years prior. Police have received only 18 calls in the six years since a gate was installed to deter access to Empire Mine Road.
In separate memos to the city, Antioch police Capt. Steve McConnell wrote that anything less than extending the closure of the two roads “would have a detrimental effect on the quality of life and safety of the community.”
The city can extend the closure of McElheny Road for eight more additional 18-month periods, and Empire Mine Road for four additional periods, before permanent decisions must be made.
“It works, and I am glad we’re going to continue to do this,” City Councilman Gary Agopian said. “It really helps reduce blight in the area.”
McElheny Road was first closed in September of 2011 at the urging of the Red Caboose restaurant, APD, Contra Costa County Fire Protection District and BNSF. The 750-foot-long, 30-foot-wide stretch of road is mostly unpaved, and at times became impassible due to seasonal rainfall and inadequate drainage. It’s isolated location provided little lighting, which made it a hub for criminal activity and illegal dumping.
The 3½-mile section of Empire Mine Road, which extends from Mesa Ridge Drive in the Dallas Ranch subdivision to Deer Valley Road, was the site of vandalism, reckless discharging of firearms, parties and illegal dumping prior to its closure to vehicle traffic in 2005.
“We had a laundry list of problems when the road was open, but things have vastly improved,” said Kevin Fitzgerald, general manager of Roddy Ranch Golf Club, which borders Empire Mine Road. “Before the road closed, I bet the police had a calls-for-service list that was 15 pages long, but now we have to deal with just a few trespassers and minor curfew problems.”
Fitzgerald said the scenic landscape, which is slated for urban development, is beginning to draw good-natured citizens as opposed to criminals: “People are starting to feel safe here.”