Laguna de Santa Rosa Trail Opens to Public

November 16, 2012 in News

A 2.4-mile trail in the Laguna de Santa Rosa opened to the public November 16, 2012, giving hikers, cyclists and equestrians a new route through the unique landscape of Sonoma County's largest freshwater wetland.

The Laguna de Santa Rosa Trail is the first phase of a larger trail network planned for the Laguna and the culmination of more than 10 years of work by the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, Sonoma County Regional Parks, the cities of Santa Rosa and Sebastopol, the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation and other agencies and organizations.

The trail runs between Highway 12 and Occidental Road on the east side of the Laguna's main channel. A fully accessible 1.8-mile segment paved with crushed stone follows Sebastopol's Laguna Wetlands Preserve and Santa Rosa's Kelly Farm, with an unpaved .6-mile pedestrian-only loop toward the Laguna's riparian cover. The trail features an overlook with bench seating.

Trail heads and parking areas are located off of both Highway 12 and Occidental Road. Both lots have bike racks, and the larger lot off Highway 12 includes horse trailer parking.

"This is a wonderful place for people to see and experience. There are not many locations where people have an amazing natural resource like this right in their own backyard," said Supervisor Efren Carrillo, whose 5th District includes the trail site. "This trail is a testament to the power of collaborative planning and strong partnerships."

The project's planning, permitting and construction totaled approximately $1.7 million and was funded by the District's voter-approved sales tax and a $500,000 grant from the California State Coastal Conservancy. Construction began in September 2010 and was completed this month.

"The trail we're opening is the result of more than a decade of work," said District General Manager Bill Keene. "Multiple agencies committed to providing greater access to the Laguna, and today we celebrate a major success in helping people experience this special landscape."

Regional Parks owns the trail easement and parking lots and will operate and maintain the trail. There is no charge for parking, and dogs on leash are allowed on the trail.

"Regional Parks is thrilled to open the Laguna trail, and we want to thank the Open Space District, the cities, the Coastal Conservancy and the many other partners who made this possible," said Regional Parks Director Caryl Hart. "The Laguna is a unique natural wonder. We know the community will make great use of this trail."

The Laguna de Santa Rosa's 254-square-mile watershed includes the entire Santa Rosa plain. Serving as a natural floodwater basin for the lower Russian River, the Laguna is internationally recognized for its biological importance. Its marshes, vernal pools, riparian woodland and valley oak savannah are among the region's richest habitats for wildlife and plants, including the special-status California Tiger Salamander, Sebastopol meadowfoam and Lobb's aquatic buttercup.

Ten years ago, the Open Space District secured conservation easements over the four farms in the Laguna owned by the city of Santa Rosa and over property owned by the Balletto family, which subsequently donated land to the county. The District and partners then spent two years developing a trails plan for public access on the properties. The goal was to create recreation and education opportunities while also protecting sensitive resources and keeping access compatible with existing agricultural uses.

The Laguna de Santa Rosa Protected Lands Trail Plan envisions 12 miles of multi-use and pedestrian-only trails. The trails generally will be placed between natural and farmed areas. The trails will not enter the Laguna but rather will follow the edge of its riparian vegetation. Future trail segments will be completed when funding is available.

For more information, call Regional Parks at (707) 565-2041.

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