Sonoma County open space funds support Santa Rosa and Petaluma park projects

A new creekside park in Santa Rosa and an expansion of Helen Putnam park in Petaluma were supported with grants from the county’s Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District.|

Little by little a recreational trail along Colgan Creek in southwest Santa Rosa has come together in recent years thanks to joint funding efforts from the City of Santa Rosa and Sonoma County.

New funding recently awarded by the county’s Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District will help see the project — about two decades in the making — into its final stage.

In 2002, the Santa Rosa City Council adopted a plan to restore 1.3 miles of Lower Colgan Creek to improve the area’s flood protection, restore the creek’s health and provide a recreational path, said Steve Brady, a senior environmental specialist with the city.

The city broke the project into three phases and is poised to launch the third and final part.

“It’s going to be great to get the creek trail path out there to provide a connection for schools and businesses and recreation,” said Brady. “We’ve already seen a lot of people out there walking and jogging on the phases we have completed.”

On Dec. 13, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved $1.5 million to support the project and enable the city’s acquisition of an adjacent 3.85 acre parcel to turn into a park.

The funding was awarded through the Open Space District’s matching grant program. First launched in 1994, the program is designed to support open space projects in urban communities, said Amy Ricard, community resources manager for the agency.

“This was a way to try to infuse open space, recreational opportunities, educational opportunities within our communities,” said Ricard.

The Lower Colgan Creek project in Santa Rosa checks nearly every box in the county’s criteria. To date, the county has contributed over $2.9 million total to the project through the matching grant program.

The first parts of the project focused on restoring the health of the creek and increasing the flood capacity from a 25-year-event to a 100-year-event, said Brady.

Project leaders have already observed a healthier seasonal creek ecosystem boasting Great Blue Herons, egrets, red-shouldered hawks, native grasses and fish.

Since 1999, the city has partnered with nearby Elsie Allen High School to offer an education program for students that has them assess the health of the creek, Brady said.

The surveys include studying the types of bugs in the creek, the water quality and a creek cleanup, said Brady.

“This is a gem for the community,” said Elise Miller, a city of Santa Rosa communications coordinator. “Not only is it improving flood protection in the area, but it’s also providing education opportunities, it is also providing recreational opportunities.”

The project is one of two to receive funding through the matching grant program in December. The board also signed off on $450,000 for habitat restoration on land formerly known as Scott Ranch and now planned as a 47-acre extension of Helen Putnam Regional Park in Petaluma.

Developers won initial approval in August to build up to 28 homes on six acres of the former ranch off D Street and Windsor Drive.

Conservation plans include a 0.7-mile trail to connect the beloved regional park with downtown Petaluma.

“It’s really the closest county regional park to all the residents of Petaluma,” said Greg Colvin, director of the Kelly Creek Protection Project, which helped negotiate a $4.1 million purchase that set aside most of the Scott Ranch for park expansion. “It’s going to provide a place where families can go for hikes, go for picnics, have family gatherings and so on.”

“This will be a backyard for the whole community,” he added.

The current application cycle of the matching grant program is open through March 10, 2023. There are $2.05 million funds remaining in the cycle, according to the Open Space District.

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

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