Bird Rescue Center gets big break in pursuit of a new home in Santa Rosa
Who’d imagine that injured, orphaned and ailing birds suddenly would have a stake in not one but two large Santa Rosa-area land sales?
The future of the bustling, 44-year-old Bird Rescue Center today is intertwined with deals in progress to sell both Sonoma County’s sprawling Community Hospital/Chanate Road property in northeast Santa Rosa and a picturesque horse training and competition center west of the city.
If all goes well, the prospective buyer of the Chanate property will allow the volunteer-run Bird Rescue Center to stay in their funky digs there for at least two years. And the volunteers will use that time to raise more donations and build a state-of-the-art care facility for wild birds on land set aside by the prospective buyers of the recently closed Santa Rosa Equestrian Center on Guerneville Road.
Significant pieces must yet fall into place for the bird center to, in a timely fashion, vacate the Chanate property and construct and occupy a new home clear across Santa Rosa. But center director Ashton Kluttz declared Thursday, “It seems as though we’re right on track.”
The Bird Rescue Center’s fledgling campaign to raise $6.7 million in cash and in-kind donations for building the envisioned Guerneville Road facility is off to a good start. Already it has brought in more than half of that amount.
Stephanie Marsh, the rescue center board member who heads the campaign, said the current value of cash donations and offers of free construction-related services stands at $3.8 million.
“We still have a long haul,” Marsh said. Once the volunteers and their community supporters reach the $6.7 million goal, she said, they will confront the myriad challenges involved in building from the ground up an avian care, rehabilitation and community education center.
That said, she added, “It’s definitely looking a lot rosier than before.”
For more information on the Bird Rescue Center and its “Invest in the Skies” capital campaign, go to birdrescuecenter.org.
The nonprofit’s volunteers routinely take in and treat about 3,000 birds a year. Many are songbirds and others are raptors — hawks, owls, eagles, falcons, turkey vultures — that have been struck by vehicles or have flown into power lines or fences, or were shot or by other means grounded.
The grassroots labor of love has operated for decades out of a World War II-era Quonset hut on about a half-acre of land across Chanate Road from the medical campus that formerly housed Community Hospital and then Santa Rosa’s original Sutter Hospital. The county owns about 71 acres of land on both sides of Chanate, and has allowed the Bird Rescue Center to use its small parcel for free.
But the hospitals are long closed and the county is keen to sell all of its surplus Chanate property. Bird Rescue Center volunteers, who’ve historically operated on a shoestring, have known for some time that their days on the Chanate hill are numbered.
In the spring of 2019, the crew’s search for a new home struck gold. Animal lovers Heidi and Dave Jacquin offered to lease the bird center a piece of a former Cotati-area golf course the couple was seeking to purchase.
The agreement specified that once the Jacquins came to own the defunct, 18-acre, nine-hole Washoe Creek Golf Course, they would allow the bird rescuers to build a new care center on 2 acres. A 34-year lease would charge the Bird Rescue Center just $10 a year.
But the Jacquins came to decide not to proceed with their plans at the Cotati location. For a time earlier this year, the rescue center volunteers had no idea where to prepare to build a new home.
Then, in September, the Jacquins opened escrow to purchase the 46 acres on Guerneville Road that was formerly home to the Santa Rosa Equestrian Center. And the couple offered the Bird Rescue Center the leased use of 5 acres — far more land than would come to the nonprofit had the Jacquins bought the defunct Cotati golf course. As with the previous agreement, the new lease contract will require the center to pay the Jacquins just $10 a year for 34 years.
The bird rescuers once again have a future home in sight.
And there’s a second significant new development. The volunteers have learned who hopes to become their landlord off Chanate Road, where they hope to continue treating and rehabilitating birds until they’re ready to move.
On Oct. 13, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors accepted the highest bid for the Chanate campus: an offer of $7,795,000 from the Newport Beach-based Village Partners LLC.
As part of its offer, Village Partners promised to lease the half-acre of land to the Bird Rescue Center for $1 a year for up to two years — and to contribute $50,000 to the center’s relocation.
All of this makes for heady, somewhat anxious times for a nonprofit that has long gotten by on birdseed and labors now to attract almost $7 million for the care, rehabilitation and return to the wild of creatures with delicate wings.
You can contact Chris Smith at 707 521-5211 and firstname.lastname@example.org.