What if Santa Rosa had the opportunity to convert a blighted and a long neglected area of the city into an attractive open space for exercise, recreation and alternative transportation?
That opportunity has arrived.
Caltrans recently announced that it does not plan to develop the extension of Highway 12 through southeast Santa Rosa. This has opened a window of opportunity for the conversion of the designated highway easement into a 2-mile greenway from Farmers Lane to Spring Lake.
Instead of the current eyesore — high dry weeds, discarded mattresses and garbage — we could create a 52-acre local treasure for young and old to enjoy and maintain.
What would it look like, and who would benefit? Through the creation of bicycle and pedestrian paths, residents would be able to get out of their cars and make safe trips to work, school and shops throughout Santa Rosa.
Since there are five schools in the area, the greenway would provide safe routes to and from school on foot or bike, reducing school related traffic.
The greenway would connect with Spring Lake, Howarth and Annadel parks, making them more accessible. It would also provide a regional link between southeast Santa Rosa, downtown, SMART, Prince Memorial Greenway and west county trails.
Since there will be a high priority on returning the greenway space to its natural state, teachers could conduct science projects in which their students study native species in their natural environment. An area might also be set aside for a scenic wildlife corridor.
By opening and restoring the three creeks that cross the property, students could study the fish and amphibians in those streams or participate in activities to restore these natural habitats, perhaps encouraging the return of spawning salmon.
By providing land and water for community gardens, the greenway could meet the demand for plots to grow fruits and vegetables. Community gardens could provide opportunities for education and meeting our neighbors.