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Bicycle path court case stays on track between Oakmont, Santa Rosa

The city has won the first round in its legal fight to preserve bicycle access through a gated community near Oakmont.

Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Elliot Daum has ruled that the city's case can proceed against the Village at Wild Oak neighborhood.

"It's certainly not over," said City Attorney Caroline Fowler. "Our hope is this will at least bring them to the table at this point."

The city sued Wild Oak last year after the neighborhood between Oakmont and Annadel State Park refused to remove signs banning bicyclists from a popular route through the community. The city argued that a valid 20-foot wide, 2,300-foot-long public easement exists across the property and the neighborhood has no right to interfere with the public's access.

But Wild Oak residents, who are fed up with recreational cyclists barreling along their private streets and walking paths, argued that the easement was never granted for bicycles, just pedestrians and official vehicles.

The city says the planning record and history of the project clearly shows an access easement for equestrians, pedestrians and bicyclists was always envisioned. City staff in 1980 "inadvertently" certified the final maps for the project without mentioning bicycles, the city claims.

But Wild Oak officials said it was no accident bikes were dropped from the easement. Access for bicycles was specifically not granted because state park officials worried the trail would become an unrestricted park entry point, said Joe La Vigna, president of the Villages at Wild Oaks Homeowners Association.

The judge's ruling only finds that if what the city alleges is true, the case deserves to continue, La Vigna said.

"The judge did not examine the strength or weakness of their argument versus our argument," he said.

The city is also suing the Diocese of Santa Rosa, alleging that the Star of the Valley Catholic Church also infringed on the public easement by building 10 handicapped parking spots over the path.


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