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Sonoma County advances key Bay Trail link, with projected cost of up to $14 million

Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The estuary of Tolay Creek southeast of Petaluma offers refuge to a host of wildlife, including rare shorebirds and waterfowl and a species of endangered mouse that lives only in the salt marshes of San Francisco Bay.

But the tidal waterway, which widens as it drains into San Pablo Bay just south of where it crosses under Highway 37, also sits in the way of a key link in the 500-mile trail envisioned to one day circle San Francisco Bay. About 70 percent of the network is complete.

To span the creek and close the 0.8-mile gap between two existing trails, parks officials are proposing a foot and bike path with a hefty projected price tag: $9 million to $14 million, depending on the design and alignment.

“It’s not a cheap endeavor,” said Ken Tam, planner with Sonoma County Regional Parks. “Where the trail alignment is located is actually in mud flats, and the materials to support a pier structure have to go very, very deep in the bedding to be sound. That increases the overall cost of the construction.”

The money could come from an proposed ballot measure in June that would increase in tolls on state-owned bridges in the Bay Area by $1 to raise an estimated $4.45 billion for transportation upgrades in the region. Up to $100 million could go to a long-delayed overhaul of Highway 37, where rebuilding costs are estimated at $1 billion to $4 billion.

The proposed Sears Point trail connector was endorsed as a parks priority last month by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors after an initial study highlighting the recreational demand and obstacles associated with the project.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8156043-181/sonoma-county-advances-key-bay

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Trails Council sustains hardy volunteer corps for Sonoma County Regional Parks 

Glen Martin, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County Trails Council

If you’ve hiked a newly built or reconstructed trail in one of Sonoma County’s regional parks, there’s a good chance Ken Wells had a hand in it.

Wells, director of the Sonoma County Trails Council, a key partner for the county park agency, is a connoisseur of the grunt work that goes into carving paths for hikers, bikers and horse riders in rugged terrain.He has been toiling in one capacity or another for the trails group for 25 years, building trails, supervising crews and goading people into volunteering for local parks.

“Most of my work consists of putting people together with projects that need doing,” said Wells, 63.

At one time, such public park maintenance was carried out by government crews — county, state or federal. These days, much of the burden falls on volunteers. And that’s not such a bad thing, said Wells, who thinks that support for regional parks has grown because local people are more heavily invested in stewardship.Indeed, most if not all of the park trail work in Sonoma County occurs either under the direct auspices or with the support of the Trails Council, which is also marking its 50th anniversary this year. Council crews regularly labor at Helen Putnam and Taylor Mountain Regional Parks, putting in new trail segments and rehabilitating existing ones. Overall, more than 150 miles of trail traverse county parks, with dozens of additional miles planned for existing and future sites.

Read more at: Trails Council sustains hardy volunteer corps for Sonoma County Regional Parks | The Press Democrat –

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13-mile Sonoma Valley Trail to allow Santa Rosa-to-Sonoma cycling

Christian Kallen, SONOMA INDEX-TRIBUNE

Eventually, upon the trail’s completion, the 8-foot-wide paved trail, with 2-foot gravel shoulders, is designed to provide two-way bike traffic with room for pedestrians along a trans-Valley route parallel to Highway 12.

The 13-mile, $24 million Sonoma Valley Trail moved a half-million dollars and a half mile closer to reality recently, as the Board of Supervisors approved a construction contract for a portion of the proposed bicycle path in the Agua Caliente area.

The funding was approved for the Central Sonoma Valley Trail, a portion of the more comprehensive Sonoma Valley Trail, roughly from Agua Caliente Road to Maxwell Farms. It is designed to connect the Sonoma Valley Trail with the City of Sonoma’s Bike Path.

The board voted to award G.D. Nielson Construction a total of $468,832 to build .42 miles of trail, in two segments. The first is just over a tenth of a mile, from the Larson Park trail north through Flowery Elementary, to connect at Depot Road with the existing trial. As of Monday, July 24, crews were at work on this section of the path.

The second .31 mile section starts at Main Street – that little spur off Sonoma Highway at the McDonald’s restaurant – and continues west on the north side of Verano Avenue to Sonoma Creek, on the edge of Maxwell Farms Regional Park. This section of trail is primarily designed to provide access to Sonoma Creek, as it does not advance the overall direction of the Sonoma Valley Trail toward the city’s bike path.

Read more at: 13-mile Sonoma Valley Trail to allow Santa Rosa-to-Sonoma cycling | Sonoma Index-Tribune | Sonoma, CA

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SMART advances path segments along tracks in Sonoma County 

Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Segments of a bike and pedestrian path designed to skirt North Bay railroad tracks where occupied passenger trains are soon slated to run inched closer to reality under funding proposals advanced Wednesday.

One of the segments, a 1.2-mile path running along railroad tracks over the Petaluma River and under Highway 101 between Payran Street and Southpoint Boulevard in Petaluma, is now fully-funded, with construction plans in the works.

The other segment reviewed Wednesday would extend from Golf Course Drive in Rohnert Park to Todd Road south of Santa Rosa.

The timetable for the start of SMART’s passenger service, meanwhile, remains unclear.

Read more at: SMART advances path segments along tracks in Sonoma County | The Press Democrat

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New Oakmont bike-pedestrian trail may solve long-simmering access dispute

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A new path nearing completion in Oakmont will soon link the retirement community in east Santa Rosa to Trione-Annadel State Park, and in the process may help solve a long-simmering access dispute.

The 400-foot-long gravel trail is designed to allow bicycle riders and pedestrians to skirt a piece of private property over which the city once held an easement frequently used by the public.

The new path runs parallel to that driveway, links up with city property once used as a wastewater treatment plant and creates a continuous link between Stone Bridge Drive and Channel Drive on the northern side of Annadel.

“We’ve totally bypassed the private property with this path,” said Ken Wells, executive director of the Sonoma Trails Council, which is building the trail with 36 yards of gravel and a lot of volunteer labor from Oakmont residents.

The trail should open as soon as the area has five solid days of warm weather to help the material set, Wells said.

If the city designates a recreational trail across its property – which it is expected to do later this month – the city property and the Oakmont trail together could create a public trail that will not only allow Oakmont residents to access the park but help cyclists stay off busy Highway 12.

“It’s really a good example of the city working with a community group to come up with a creative solution,” said Mayor Chris Coursey, who rode past the path on his bike Thursday afternoon.

Read more at: New Oakmont trail may solve long-simmering access dispute | The Press Democrat

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Winter is prime time for birdwatching in Northern California

Tracy Salcedo, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

When winter strips the leaves from the Bay Area’s deciduous oaks, it does more than bring more light to a dark season. It also enables those enchanted by birds a better chance to see them, count them, and appreciate them.

This improved visibility is one of the reasons popular and productive citizens’ science birding events, such as the Christmas Bird Count (sponsored by the National Audubon Society) and the Great Backyard Bird Count (sponsored by Audubon and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology), are staged in winter. Those elusive little brown birds are easier to see and identify when they aren’t obscured by foliage, meaning counts are more accurate and provide a better gauge by which to measure the health of bird populations and the habitats that sustain them.

Birding, like wildflower blooms, newt migrations, butterfly and ladybug congregations, and displays of autumn foliage, offers walkers an opportunity to experience the Bay Area’s open lands in a new way. For the amateur, turning an eye to the sky opens the hiking experience to a higher plane. For safety’s sake, hikers focus on their feet, watching the trail so they don’t fall down. You’ve got to look up to find the birds, which means you must stop, and stopping results in discovery. The place may be old and familiar, but by pausing, looking up, and listening to the birdcall, you will see that place in a different way.

On the trails described below, amateur birders or those who are curious about birds are guaranteed to see a variety of species, from songbirds to shorebirds to raptors. These trails also offer opportunities for expert birders to check off another species on their life lists.

Read more at: Winter is prime time for birdwatching in Northern California | The Press Democrat

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Construction to start on SMART bike, pedestrian path

Staff, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District, or SMART, received federal environmental clearance on April 6 for a portion of the planned bicycle and pedestrian pathway, stretching from north San Rafael to north Santa Rosa.

The 36-mile portion of the path from the San Rafael Civic Center Station to the Santa Rosa North Station near Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport cleared National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, review.

The Petaluma-based transit agency said this federal green light is one of the most significant environmental approvals to advance bicycle and pedestrian projects in the Bay Area. It also makes the approved portion of the path eligible for federal funding, the train authority said.

Read more at: Construction to start on SMART bike, pedestrian path | North Bay Business Journal

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New Laguna de Santa Rosa trail shows an ecosystem in recovery

Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A group of two dozen people on Saturday got the first official look at a multimillion-dollar restoration effort along a 1.7-mile stretch of the Laguna de Santa Rosa, the broad freshwater wetland that flows into the Russian River.

A guided morning hike of the new Southern Laguna Discovery Trail outside Rohnert Park revealed a renewed ecosystem that is showing signs of recovery after decades of abuse and neglect. Steelhead trout and river otter populations are recovering, native plants and saplings are taking root and natural predators are returning.

“Check this out, it’s bobcat scat,” said Kevin Monroe, executive director of the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation, as a group of hikers gathered around him and cheered the discovery. “Seeing a top predator in this habitat is just wonderful. We still have much further to go, but this is a sign that some health and functionality is being returned to this ecosystem.”

Spearheaded by the foundation, and the Sonoma County Water Agency, restoration efforts along the middle reach of the Laguna de Santa Rosa have been underway since 2012. Just four years ago, the waterway that flows from Cotati and past Sebastopol before spilling into the Russian River was surrounded largely by grassland. Most of the native trees and shrubs were ripped out during the early 1970s, and the meandering waterway was straightened to help prevent flooding in Rohnert Park.

Runoff from urban areas and dairy farms led to other problems, spurring an explosion of invasive plants that choked off oxygen in the waters, leading to significant declines in wildlife populations.

Some of those issues have been stemmed by conservation efforts.“It’s a big experiment, but all of the plants and animals are starting to come back,” said Wendy Trowbridge, director of restoration and conservation science programs for the foundation. “And 20 years from now, this will be like walking in a lovely forest.”

Read more at: New Laguna de Santa Rosa trail unveiled outside Rohnert Park | The Press Democrat

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Wheels slowly turning for Sonoma Valley bike trail

SONOMA VALLEY SUN

A route has been identified for a proposed 13-mile pedestrian and bicycle trail through the Sonoma Valley. The public is invited to view and comment on the suggested alignment and other findings of a draft feasibility study at an open house planned for 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 20 at the Kenwood Fire Protection District office, 9045 Sonoma Highway.

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors reviewed the study at its Jan. 12 meeting. See the plan.

The review evaluates the potential for a multi-use trail along Highway 12 between Santa Rosa and the Springs: on the west side between Melita Road and Oakmont Drive; along the east side between Oakmont and Arnold Drive in Glen Ellen; and along the west side between Arnold Drive and Agua Caliente Road.

With the exception of a few areas, the Highway 12 corridor lacks sidewalks and bicycle lanes. The proposed trail would improve safety for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians and promote alternative travel to wineries, parks and other Sonoma Valley attractions, planners say.

Read more at: Wheels slowly turning for Sonoma Valley bike trail | Sonoma Sun

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Proposed Dairyman Winery and event center corked for now

Krista Sherer, SONOMA WEST TIMES

The contentious Dairyman project hit an obstacle in September with the response from the Sonoma County Regional Parks denying access across the Joe Rodota trail for the project.  Residents and community groups throughout Sonoma County have opposed the project from the beginning, voicing that the large-scale winery and event center would not only violate zoning to the trail drastically effecting traffic, harm the ecosystem to the Laguna de Santa Rosa and negatively influence the overall character to the rural charm of West County.

In a Sept. 17 letter from Sonoma County Regional Parks (SCRP) Director Caryl Hart to Permit and Resource Management Department’s (PMRD) Supervising Planner Traci Tesconi, Hart wrote that the land owner currently has no legal rights to cross the trail and crosses at the county’s sufferance.

Read more about this project at: Proposed Dairyman Winery and event center corked for now – Sonoma West Times and News: News