Mill Creek Linear Park: Bakersfield, California

Planning Excellence

One of Bakersfield, California's best kept secrets is the Mill Creek Linear Park. This meandering 1.5-mile urban trail connects the downtown area with a multimodal, waterfront path that invites locals and visitors to head outdoors to explore downtown.

Formerly an irrigation canal characterized by its dirt riverbanks and chain link fence, Mill Creek has since evolved into the center of revitalization for downtown Bakersfield. The dirt canal, and the city's aging Central Park, were both located in an industrialized area of downtown that saw little growth or redevelopment for several decades.

This iconic covered bridge connects Central Park to the federal courthouse. Photo courtesy Gilbert Vega.

In the early 2000s, local planners, city officials, and community residents began to look at ways to reinvent this public space and transform this former eyesore into a focal point for the community. The goal was to invest in an amenity that would become a catalyst for change and revitalization in the downtown area.

A mix of stakeholders was engaged in the redevelopment of Mill Creek. Local leaders and residents were encouraged to share feedback at public discussions focused on efforts to reclaim the disused industrial parcels dotting the canal. Following this reclamation, planners were able to make some much needed updates to Central Park, which could then serve as an anchor for a larger park system. Using the reclaimed land, planners created linear parkways along the canal beyond Central Park, turning an enclosed space into an inviting walkable amenity that connects downtown from north to south.

The Mill Creek Linear Park projects have been credited as the driving force behind the revitalization of downtown Bakersfield. They complement the Mill Creek Affordable Housing initiatives, which have constructed over 500 units of affordable housing along the corridor. Now Mill Creek serves as a national model for how cities and rural communities can repurpose single-use canals into a multi-use focal point for an entire community.

A mural on the Mexicali Restaurant wall overlooks the canal. Photo courtesy City of Bakersfield.

Defining Characteristics and Features

Urban connectivity at its best — Mill Creek Linear Park connects more than 500 units of affordable housing, allowing residents to walk along a flowing creek.

  • The linear park features interesting art and architecture throughout, including a replica flour mill as a testament to the industry that gave rise to the canal and the area.
  • Central Park is home to the Bakersfield Community House and the Bakersfield Museum of Art, which recently celebrated its 60th anniversary.
  • Home of the new Federal Courthouse, adjacent to Central Park
  • The Five Sister City Gardens, featuring unique designs from each sister city, provide cultural interpretation along the Mill Creek walk.
  • Proximity to future Bakersfield High Speed Rail Station and a key attraction for future riders of California's high-speed rail system.
  • The trail is a model of modern planning that connects a variety of amenities, including an antiques shopping corridor, Beale Memorial Library and Amtrak Station, McMurtrey Aquatics Center, the Adventist Hospital Ice Sports Center, Maya Cinemas, and more.

Designated Area

The Mill Creek park system runs for approximately 1.5 miles through the eastern side of Downtown Bakersfield. The trail begins adjacent to Central Park near 24th Street, then heads south toward California Avenue.

The Kern Delta Canal spillway has walkways on both sides. Photo courtesy City of Bakersfield.