Bird Rescue Center of Sonoma County signs lease for land near Cotati

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The under-the-gun Bird Rescue Center in Santa Rosa suddenly feels wind beneath its wings.

On Friday, Bird Rescue Center leaders who’ve been searching for a new home signed a lease on land that’s part of a defunct golf course outside of Cotati.

Under pressure to vacate its longtime center on land off Santa Rosa’s Chanate Road that is owned by Sonoma County, the all-volunteer Bird Rescue Center now must raise the money needed to build a new campus off West Sierra Avenue near Stony Point Road.

“There’s still a long road ahead,” Sam Marsh, a member of the rescue center’s board, told a gathering Friday at the existing avian care facility near the county’s former Community Hospital.

But Marsh and the lease-signing ceremony’s guests, among them county supervisors Shirlee Zane and David Rabbitt, cheered the progress the Bird Rescue Center has made. Its Chanate Road-area home of four decades sits on land the county has declared surplus and is offering for sale.

Rescue center leaders had looked into a number of possible sites but found none would work out. Then they learned about the former, 9-hole Washoe Creek Golf Course and its new owners, Heidi and Dave Jacquin.

The Jacquins intend to build on part of the 18-acre property a private equestrian center. Contacted by Marsh, the couple readily embraced the idea of dedicating two acres of the former golf course to the care of injured, orphaned and sick song birds, water birds and raptors.

“We love birds,” Heidi Jacquin said after Friday’s lease-signing. She noted that her husband, the founder and managing director of San Francisco’s North Point Advisers, an independent investment bank, “always wanted to be a falconer.”

The freshly signed lease allows the Bird Rescue Center to use the property near Cotati for 34 years, and to pay the Jacquins just $10 a year. But the center must come up with the money to build new treatment and recovery facilities. Under the provisions of the lease, the center is required to raise $600,000 within the next year.

Donations can be made, and additional information obtained, at birdrescuecenter.org.

Marsh said that already local architects have offered to design a new bird center for free, a security hardware firm has said it will donate all the locks and door hardware, and a cement company has expressed interest in becoming a construction partner.

Also, the Bird Rescue Center has applied for three grants that would provide dollars for building the Cotati complex.

Still, Marsh said, “Funding is going to be a major hurdle for us.”

As they work to raise money for a new center, Marsh and the other volunteers are hoping they’ll be able to continue operating on the land near Chanate Road until the county sells it or, even better, until the new owner breaks ground for whatever use will succeed the Bird Rescue Center.

You can contact Chris Smith at 707 521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.

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