A Glimpse Into History: How Redding Acquired Riverfront Land

As Redding considers selling riverfront land for redevelopment, news archives from the 60’s and 70’s provide insight into how the city became owners of the land. Another public workshop on the possible sale and redevelopment of the land will be held tonight.

This story is part of Scout’s ongoing coverage of proposed riverfront land development.

Tonight the Redding City Council will hold another public workshop about the possible sale and redevelopment of riverfront land that includes the Redding Civic Auditorium grounds and Redding Rodeo grounds. The workshop will be focused on the legal status of a series of riverfront parcels.

The Council agenda packet offers little detail but says that an oral report at tonight’s meeting will include more information about the use, purchase dates, covenants, restrictions, leases, associated ordinances, and cost/revenue considerations of these properties.

A city staff report for the meeting indicates the city acquired a variety of parcels in the riverfront area from the Benton and Kutras families. That land was acquired between 1937-1966 and included about 212 acres. Some has since been combined, split, reorganized and/or sold. 

Back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, when much of the riverfront was still private property, the Redding City Council debated over whether to acquire riverfront land downtown. News stories from that era offer a glimpse into the process.

Part of a Redding Record Searchlight article from July 1, 1947.

In 1947, the Council considered whether to continue to lease riverfront property belonging to the Kutras family. Carl Williams, a local realtor, was among those vocally supporting the City’s continued lease of the land. Some were concerned at the time that failing to lease the land could lead to it being bought by “brokers” and subdivided. Williams called it a “terrible blunder” for the city not to buy the land.

Part of a Redding Record Searchlight article from July 7, 1965.

In 1965, the Redding City Council discussed whether to begin the purchase of what would eventually be 165 acres of land, from Frances Kutras.  The Council called for voters to make the final decision on the controversial land purchase. Mayor George Moty told the Council, “if we don’t act now we will probably lose this area to public use forever.”

Part of a Redding Record Searchlight from May 3, 1966

In 1966 the City received federal funds to help pay for Turtle Bay area land acquisitions, according to more reporting from the Redding Record Searchlight. The funding was intended to help the local government preserve land for recreational use.

Part of a Redding Record Searchlight article from September 30, 1966.

In 1966 as the City considered whether to acquire more riverfront land, the Council was divided. Moty felt the land would provide the city with “aesthetic control of the new gateway to Redding for the next 50 years.”

Part of a Redding Record Searchlight article from November 5, 1966.

In November of 1966, a single Council member, educator Charles Denny, opposed the purchase of riverfront land. Many civic leaders actively supported the purchase. So did the Greater Redding Chamber of Commerce and the Five Counties Central Labor Council. John Reginato, head of the Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association said of the possible purchase, “Water is one of the greatest assets. This purchase will ensure fishing area, boat docks, aquarium sites, one mile of river frontage for future use.”

Part of a Redding Record Searchlight article from November 9, 1966

In November of 1966 voters decided to purchase riverfront land in the Turtle Bay area. Arguments in favor of the measure said the land would “provide an almost unparalleled and uniquely beautiful recreation area for the city.” The measure carried narrowly with about 5,000 voting and a margin of only 228 votes in favor of the land purchase.

Tonight’s public workshop will be held at 5:15 pm Wednesday, November 10. The public may provide public comment in person or by email.

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