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Big boost for Laguna de Santa Rosa

  • Conservation science program manager Hattie Brown, left, and restoration program manager John Guardino, both with the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation, conduct survey and mapping for restoration planting at Meadowlark Field on Wednesday, August 10, 2011. (Christopher Chung / PD)

The effort to restore a swath of the Laguna de Santa Rosa flood plain near Sebastopol has received $460,000 in grants that will bring the project, Meadowlark Field, to fruition.

“We will be starting planting this fall, we are already doing prep work with irrigation lines,” said David Bannister, executive director of the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation, which is doing the restoration work. “We're really happy about this, it is a highly visible parcel.”

Meadowlark Field is a 60-acre park on the east side of the laguna next to Highway 12. The land is owned by the city of Sebastopol and until the 1990s was a dumping ground for apple processing waste.

The money will allow work on 28 acres of the park that has not been restored.

A grant of $203,643 from the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District was approved by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

It is being matched by a $200,000 grant from the Wildlife Conservation Board Habitat Conservation Fund to the foundation and $57,000 to the city of Sebastopol from the state Parks and Recreation's Habitat Conservation Fund.

The laguna foundation also is getting a pool of volunteer labor to do the work, which includes removing invasive species and planting valley oaks, Oregon ash and a number of native shrubs and plants.

“It is pretty significant, 3,000 trees and plants will be planted over the next few years. It is a major milestone in the preservation of the laguna,” said Kenyon Webster, the Sebastopol planning director.

Previous work has including plantings and development of a perimeter trail and trails through the center of the fields, he said.

The laguna is a 16-mile waterway stretching from the Russian River to Cotati, with 3,895 acres of flood plain that act as a winter catch-basin for the river.

It is home to dozens of bird species and to bobcats, coyotes, foxes and badgers. The main channel has pond turtles.

It also provides habitat for the endangered tiger salamander and flora such as Sebastopol Meadowfoam, Burke's Gold Field and Sonoma Sunshine wildflowers.

In February, the laguna was designated as a wetlands of international importance by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

The park is open to the public and accessible by a summertime floating bridge behind the city's teen center and by trails at a parking lot adjacent to the Chevron Station on Highway 12.

Bannister said the county's Open Space District and Sonoma County parks are planning a trail through the park that would run from Highway 12 to Occidental Road.

You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or bob.norberg@pressdemocrat.com.

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