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COURSEY: Guarding the Greenway

A couple of months back I wrote about efforts to fight graffiti along the Prince Memorial Greenway, the $25 million linear park along Santa Rosa Creek west of City Hall.

I'm happy to report that, almost 10 weeks later, visible progress has been made.

Santa Rosa police sent an important message at the end of May when they set up a late-night stakeout along the Greenway, arresting two men in the act of spray-painting gang graffiti along the concrete walls of the public trail that provides east-west access under Highway 101. For anyone paying attention, it was a clear signal that what had become a rash of spray-paint tagging along the Greenway would not be tolerated.

Not long after those arrests a new, tile mural was installed in the same place the graffiti had been painted. The colorful dragon, created by the talented young artists of Artstart and partially funded by the city's Art in Public Places program, joins several other impressive art installations that make the Greenway a pleasant and interesting stroll along the creek.

At left are before and after pictures of the trail under Highway 101.

This week, the city launched a new program aimed at putting more eyes and ears — and hands — to work at keeping the Greenway free of graffiti, trash and vandalism.

As part of the "National Night Out" event on Tuesday — a program aimed at bringing citizens outdoors to claim ownership of their neighborhoods after dark — about two dozen people signed up to be "Greenway Guardians."

These are regular users of the linear park who will, at a minimum, report problems as they crop up, and, in many cases, provide the volunteer labor to clean up trash and paint over graffiti.

"It was a great turnout," said Georgia Pedgrift, Santa Rosa's community engagement coordinator. "We had couples sign up together, neighbors of the Greenway, people of different ages, people who walk their kids to school at Burbank Elementary, people who commute on their bikes to downtown."

Those volunteering to be part of the program received a button that they are encouraged to wear while using the Greenway. The button depicts a little armored knight astride a fish and carrying a rake and a paintbrush.

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