Another small step in Bodega Bay trail
BODEGA BAY - Work is underway on a small section of a long-awaited bike and pedestrian trail designed to extend along 3½ miles of Bodega Bay coastline, part of it built on an elevated boardwalk at the harbor’s edge.
A crew began last week to clear brush and mark the route of the new half-mile segment toward the northern end of this seaside village, running roughly parallel to Highway 1 between the Bodega Bay Community Center and the entrance road to the state-run Bodega Dunes Campground.
But while a step in the right direction, the estimated $533,000 trail to be laid this fall is just that: a single step in what could still be a prolonged campaign to turn the complete multiuse trail plan into reality, thanks to cost, necessary engineering and environmental hurdles.
Of particular complexity is the milelong boardwalk section designed to skirt the commercial center of town along the harbor tidelands, an environmentally sensitive, seismically demanding stretch of land that also raises residential privacy and commercial right-of-way concerns, Sonoma County Regional Parks personnel said.
That phase, estimated to cost about $2.4 million for construction alone, “is at least 10 years out, because there’s no funding right now,” senior park planner Mark Cleveland said.
But county parks Director Caryl Hart said she feels confident her staff will eventually bring the full project to fruition, connecting a community that’s strung out along the narrow coast highway and making it safer and easier for residents and visitors alike to enjoy it.
“Not only is it possible, I feel like it has to happen,” Hart said of the Bodega Bay community trail. “People can’t get from one end of the town to the other. You can’t walk or ride your bike without taking your life in your hands.”
The trail system will also be part of the 1,200-mile California Coastal Trail intended to run the entire length of the state, putting it in good stead for grant applications, Hart said.
Even the segment to be completed over the next several weeks, though still kind of “a trail from nowhere to nowhere,” has stirred eager excitement in the community, said Michael Bundy, a resident of the Salmon Creek community who oversees the community center with his wife, Diana.
The new trail, though truncated, will enhance the experience of those who gather for the Bodega Bay Community Center’s growing farmers market, as well as the surprising number who stop by daily to visit the Children’s Bell Tower memorial just behind it, Michael Bundy said.
“I think it’s going to be wonderful,” he said. “It’s been so long coming.”
Cleveland and other supporters encouraged a long-term view of the project, with each piece expanding opportunities for movement around the community, linking up trails and bike paths to Bodega Head, for instance, eventually taking visitors along the wharfs and fishing docks that define the town and, finally, connecting pieces of the California Coastal Trail, now said to be more than 60 percent done.
“You have to look long-term at the California Coastal Trail and connections to Bodega Bay to make it really make sense,” Cleveland said.
But it’s been a long haul for those who remember back to 2000, when local residents first began pursuing some kind of local pathway that would enable pedestrian and bicycle travel more safely and efficiently around Bodega Bay. A plan developed in 2005 by a citizen panel appeared to provide direction for its creation, but environmental review and permitting, funding issues and other concerns slowed progress.