Specter of bridge fades to green

  • Thea Hensel, left, and Linda Proulx, right, co-chairs of the Southeast Greenway campaign hope to convert the right-of-way land to a vital urban greenway that they hope will have a variety of public ammenities.

The ghost of the proposed Highway 12 freeway along the southern edge of east Santa Rosa has risen from the grave where it has languished for 52 years.

The good news is that it is not (as one editorial writer put it in the 1990s) "the bony-fingered specter of a bridge over Spring Lake." Today, it is more like a cheery wave beckoning citizens toward a rosy future.

Bridge fears are no longer issues, but there is no question that something is afoot along the 300-foot-wide, two-mile swath of open land that stretches from the end of Farmers Lane to Summerfield Road. And it's definitely not a freeway.

It could be a park, a pedestrian walkway, a bikeway, some cluster housing, small family farms, a heritage orchard, a sculpture garden, or all of the aforementioned.

But don't hold your breath.

The state still owns the property. And a request from the city and the Sonoma County Transportation Authority for a project study report is said to be "in the queue at Caltrans." In Sacramentospeak that could mean something like "dead in the water."

Described as "a legacy project" by Thea Hensel, who, with Linda Proulx, heads what is now known as the Southeast Greenway Committee, this is a plan for what could, might, maybe, possibly happen down the road (you should pardon

the expression.)

Although discussions have been going on for five years, the campaign has "flown under the radar here," as Proulx terms it. It is funded under the nonprofit umbrella of the Leadership Institute for Ecology and Economy and has attracted some important academic attention. Professor Michael Southworth, from UC Berkeley's Urban Design Studio, assigned the greenway as a semester project for 10 of his master's-degree candidates.

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