Supervisors unanimously back Southeast Greenway project

Proponents vying for a 55-acre strip of land known as the Southeast Greenway won unanimous support Tuesday, when the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors endorsed a plan to transform the property between Farmers Lane and Melita Road into a public park.

“Some people say, ‘What do we need another park for?’” Supervisor Shirlee Zane said. “But for me, the question really is ‘why not?‘?”

The city of Santa Rosa has agreed to take primary ownership of the land, dedicating $100,000 from city coffers for planning and regulatory expenses. Tuesday’s thumbs-up by the board gave the Sonoma County Water Agency and the county Regional Parks department the go-ahead to join in local efforts to both manage the property and lobby Caltrans for ownership. LandPaths, a local nonprofit agency that helps acquire and manage open space, has also signed on.

How these groups will secure funding to purchase the land, or acquire it in another way, remains foggy. One thing, however, is clear: Caltrans wants to dispose of the land. That’s the most important thing, supporters of the Southeast Greenway project said. Now, with countywide support, groups plan to launch an ambitious fundraising effort and to lay out project details.

The Southeast Greenway Campaign, which has blueprinted early park ideas, outlined an open space complete with hiking and bicycle trails, community gardens and other recreational uses.

“We are thrilled by the unanimous support from the Board of Supervisors,” said Linda Proulx, co-chair for the greenway campaign, who sat next to her husband, Alan, both clad in green T-shirts showing support for the park. “Now we can work together to acquire the property from Caltrans.”

But not everyone who spoke Tuesday agrees with park proposals.

“I am strongly opposed to any kind of development that disturbs the sensitive habitat there,” said Cheryl Dolzadelli, who leases seven acres of the property from Caltrans for her horse ranch. “We have foxes, and just a litany of birds and butterflies and reptiles. It’s a very balanced, natural wildlife sanctuary that’s been untouched for so long.”

Dolzadelli said the land near Spring Lake Park should be protected, but she supports other parts being developed in some way.

Supervisor Susan Gorin, whose district encompasses most of the property, said the development of more bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure is critical to connect with Highway 12 bicycle lane improvements underway.

“It was exciting for me to see a grassroots organization spring out of a need and out of an opportunity,” said Gorin, who represented parts of the property while a member of the Santa Rosa City Council. Gorin said Tuesday’s board action showed that “we are working with Caltrans and we are really serious about this.”

She said the swath of land on the other side of Spring Lake, near Melita Road, represents an opportunity to connect to the planned 13-mile Class 1 bike lane improvements along Highway 12.

“This connection is really important for the future success of that Class 1 trail. Every time I see cyclists on Highway 12, especially the narrow part, I cringe,” Gorin said. “I know this is going to be slow and slogging; there is a lot of valuable vineyard land in there.”

You can reach Staff Writer Angela Hart at 526-8503 or angela.hart@press? On Twitter @ahartreports.

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