By Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor
Office of Public and Employee Communications
When people are asked to name the first thing that comes to mind when they hear the word “Folsom,” many respond with the song, “Folsom Prison Blues,” or singer Johnny Cash. In 1968, the legendary performer recorded his hit live album, “At Folsom Prison.” Since then, the city of Folsom has long tried to stamp itself as something other than the site of that long-ago concert – until now.
With name recognition spanning the globe, Folsom city officials and tourism boosters are embracing their claim to fame by naming a 2.5-mile-long trail, pedestrian bridge and park in honor of the late Johnny Cash. None of it could have happened without the help of CDCR since the project uses land owned by the state prison system.
As community partners, prisons across the state work with their local cities and nonprofit organizations. The Johnny Cash project is no different.
On Oct. 14, the city held a ribbon-cutting ceremony opening new portions of the trail – including one that takes CDCR employees to the parking area of Folsom Prison. Since the road leading to the prison is too narrow to accommodate a bike lane, CDCR requested the city to construct the trail leading to the prison. The trail can be used by prison employees who would rather bicycle to work but is not open to the public.
The ribbon-cutting event marked the completion of Phase 2 of the trail that includes 1.25 miles of Class I paved trail, an undercrossing that tunnels beneath Prison Road at Natoma Street, and a 190-foot wooden arched bridge providing views of the American River Canyon, Lake Natoma and beyond. Funding for the $3.23 million project is provided by a variety of federal grants and local transportation funds, according to city officials.
“The city of Folsom approached us several years ago to see if we could help them complete the final connection to its city-wide trail system by traversing through CDCR’s property,” said Deborah Hysen, Director of Facilities Planning, Construction and Management. “It is very satisfying to see the collaboration on this project with the city of Folsom finally be realized. The trail and the bridge over Prison Road are seamless additions to the beautiful and historic landscape of Folsom Prison. The public will now be able to enjoy the beautiful oak-studded hillside of Folsom Prison and CSP-Sacramento’s property, and CDCR employees will get the further benefit of a new paved bike trail exclusively for them and their families.”
The Johnny Cash Trail skirts along the edge of prison property, next to East Natoma Street and a short span of Folsom Lake Crossing. It’s also where the footing for the Johnny Cash Bridge was set, connecting the new trail with the existing trail on the other side of Folsom Lake Crossing.
Cindy Cash, daughter of Johnny Cash, cut the ribbon on Oct. 14 to signify the opening of the trail. She spoke about how her father would feel humbled and honored.
“If my dad could see all of you people here, 14 years after he died, he would say, ‘Why me? Why did everyone do this for me?’ I wouldn’t miss this for anything,” she said.
“This is very special to my heart. … My whole family did want to be here and would have been here if they could because this means a lot. And I know if dad were here he would be extremely overwhelmed and grateful. I know I am.”
California Prison Industry Authority also got involved with the effort.
“A limited edition of 100 framed ‘JCASH 50’ commemorative license plate collectibles (are) available for purchase. The framed set includes the commemorative license plate, an iconic photo of Johnny Cash standing in front of Folsom Prison, and an etched plate with the lyrics of ‘Folsom Prison Blues.’ The plates were made by inmates at the Folsom State Prison’s license plate manufacturing facility and pay tribute to the 50th anniversary of ‘Folsom Prison Blues,'” according to a press release issued by the City of Folsom. “The plates were made available through a partnership with the California Prison Industry Authority, Department of Motor Vehicles, the John R. Cash Revocable Trust and the City of Folsom.”
(Editor’s note: Some websites may not be accessible on a CDCR computer.)
Learn more about the project, how to get there and ways to get involved at https://folsomcasharttrail.com/