The $25 million permanent Oakhurst Community College Center will be located on a 30-acre site off Highway 49 and Westlake Drive, just west of the Madera County Sheriff’s sub-station.
The funds for the new campus are from Measure C, the $485 million bond that nearly 65% of voters approved in June, 2016, to improve facilities in the district, including construction of the Oakhurst campus.
The Trustee of the property is April A. Worden of Tucson, Arizona, and Russ Shaw serves as the property manager. The property was purchased by the State Center Community College District (SCCCD) for $1.8 million.
The new campus will replace the temporary classrooms and offices currently on 2.7 acres at the corner of Crane Valley Road (426) and Civic Circle Loop behind Rite Aid.
The property includes two main adjoining parcels equaling 30.2 net acres plus a small “outlet” property donated by the seller for use by SCCCD to place campus signage. A small pond is located east of Westlake Drive and the college property overlooks the pond.
The long-awaited decision on the location was made March 6 at the monthly meeting of (SCCCD) Board of Trustees.
Reedley College President Dr. Sandra Caldwell called the announcement an exciting step for Oakhurst.
“This has been a multi-year process that included great input from the community, and we listened,” Caldwell said. “We look forward to building our beautiful permanent Oakhurst campus that will serve generations to come.”
SCCCD Board of Trustees President Bobby Kahn, who also serves as the executive director of the Madera County Economic Development Commission, said the decision by the trustees will give Eastern Madera County a modern and permanent campus on a beautiful setting with plenty of room to expand well into the future.”
“Many of us can agree that education is the foundation for an individual’s future success in life,” said Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce President Melanie Barker. “The Oakhurst Community College District has tremendous positive impact on the lives of our citizens. Moving the college to a larger location will allow it to grow bringing more students and opportunities to our mountain communities. The Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce looks forward to this exciting expansion.”
Long-time Oakhurst businessman George Sitts said he was happy to see the trustees vote in favor the 30 acre site.
“I was pleased to see the district trustees approved the purchase of 30-acres on the west side of Westlake Drive, north of Highway 49 as the site for the new Oakhurst Community College Center,” Sitts said. “This is a far better location than the earlier proposed site facing Highway 41 in the middle of downtown Oakhurst (referring to building on the current college site by the library). The chosen site is large enough and flexible enough for a campus befitting our mountain culture, instead of being shoehorned into our commercial center.”
Sitts said the trustees are to be complimented on rethinking the issue and taking into consideration the needs of both the college and the Oakhurst community.
According to Oakhurst Community College Center Director Dr. Darin Soukup, there are currently about 1,200 unduplicated students who attend the Oakhurst campus over an academic year (summer, fall and spring semesters).
Press Conference Friday
The State Center Community College District will hold a press conference at 2:30 p.m. this Friday at the site to hear details of the development.
Madera County District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler, Shaw, SCCCD Chancellor Paul Parnell, Kahn, and Caldwell will speak.
11 sites were submitted for consideration
After asking the public to submit potential properties for the site of the new Oakhurst Community College, 11 sites in the Mountain Area were evaluated by district officials with four of the sites being identified for additional study.
Scott O’Dell of Odell Planning and Research of Oakhurst, evaluated the sites based on input from student and community surveys and community workshop feedback. The input received was the basis for the site selection criteria, which resulted in an emphasis placed on access by both private and public transportation, food services, and emergency services.
The initial evaluations also included the existing terrain, slope changes, trees, and the ease, or difficulties, of grading the site to meet ADA standards. Another phase of the process provided additional information about the four properties that included cost and the review of property studies, including environmental, biological, archeological, and drainage.
O’Dell provided a final report to the district and this report was placed on the Measure C website (www.scccd.edu/Oakhurst-Site-Selection.pdf) about a year ago.
Besides the permanent Oakhurst center, Measure C also provided funds for several other expansions to SCCCD’s other campuses, such as a new campus in southeast Fresno and a 120-acre Clovis location.
Of the $485 million, $170 million is set aside for Fresno City College - mostly for a parking garage and new buildings for science and math - $60 million for the Clovis campus, and other amounts to expand Madera Community College into a fully accredited college.
The district, which serves more than 50,000 students across the Central Valley, is the largest higher education institution in the region, with a geographic reach spanning four counties and 5,743 square miles. SCCCD’s campuses include Fresno City College, Reedley College, Clovis Community College, and Oakhurst and Madera Centers.