Sonoma County begins process to reopen Joe Rodota Trail

By 10:30 a.m. Monday, the trail segment east of Roseland Avenue was clear of encampments, and little evidence of them remained.|

Cleanup has begun on the Joe Rodota Trail just days after a federal judge lifted the ban preventing Sonoma County from clearing two homeless encampments along the popular recreation site.

By 10:30 a.m. Monday, the trail segment east of Roseland Avenue was clear of encampments, and little evidence of them remained. Park officials had moved sections of fence that previously surrounded the encampments into a line parallel with the trail.

Crews are expected to clean the trail — a process that includes removing garbage and washing sidewalks — Monday and Tuesday, with the aim of reopening the trail by the end of the week, county communications manager Paul Gullixson said.

County employees visited the trail over the weekend to offer shelter placements to the remaining people camping there, Gullixson said.

“Over the weekend it looks like all of the individuals along the camp had been relocated,” Gullixson said.

Judge Haywood S. Gilliam Jr. of the U.S. District Court for Northern California imposed a temporary order on July 25 blocking the county’s plan to clear the trail the following day. Seven people camping on the trail had requested the order and accused the county of not providing adequate shelter options ahead of its planned sweep.

The county closed the trail three weeks ago, after officials said there was not enough room at local shelters to house those camped on the trail.

However, in the span of a little more than a week, the county has placed 63 people in shelters, Gullixson said.

Those camping on the trail were offered several choices: DEMA-run trailers near the Sonoma County Fairgrounds; vouchers for a 30-day stay at local hotels; or a six-month stay at Sam Jones, the congregate living shelter unpopular with many unhoused residents.

The trailers are available for six months, Gullixson said. Plaintiffs said they were told the trailers are available for 30 days and required residents to pass a background check.

Six of the seven people who requested the restraining order have since accepted placements at hotels and the trailers, and the seventh was placed at Los Guilicos Village, a transitional housing facility.

The plaintiffs remain concerned about what will happen to them once the 30 days are up, according to an updated complaint filed in court on Friday by Denise McCloud, one off the seven plaintiffs.

Some people who had been placed in an Extended Stay hotel in Santa Rosa were moved to a motel in Rohnert Park last week. Nina Butterfly, who was moved to Rohnert Park, said she was told last week that the county planned to move them to a different hotel with kitchenettes in Santa Rosa, but on Monday was informed that would no longer be the case.

Instead they were told they could stay at the Rohnert Park motel for the duration of the 30 days or leave, Butterfly said. She added that she agreed to move to Rohnert Park with the understanding that it would be only for the weekend.

The Rohnert Park motel does not have a kitchenette, Butterfly said.

“The out-of-town placements do not offer meals and leave those placed in the hotels out of town with no options for food services that they would otherwise have in Santa Rosa,” McCloud wrote in the complaint, describing the stress of the shuffle.

McCloud and her fellow plaintiffs had asked Judge Gilliam to keep the order in place through their 30-day stays, until the county proves it has taken “serious steps” to keep them housed for at least six months, according to the complaint.

A second hearing in the case is scheduled for Aug. 18.

The county will keep the fencing up once the trail is reopened and Sonoma County Regional Parks will patrol it to discourage anyone from camping there, Gullixson said.

“We want to emphasize that this is a public access area and not a site for camping,” said Gullixson.

You can reach Staff Writer Emma Murphy at 707-521-5228 or On Twitter @MurphReports.

Emma Murphy

County government, politics reporter

The decisions of Sonoma County’s elected leaders and those running county government departments impact people’s lives in real, direct ways. Your local leaders are responsible for managing the county’s finances, advocating for support at the state and federal levels, adopting policies on public health, housing and business — to name a few — and leading emergency response and recovery.
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