By Janelle Wetzstein
May 29, 2018
Have you ever stopped to think about how to improve Veterans Memorial Beach in Healdsburg? Would you like to?
Regional Parks is preparing an overarching master plan to redevelop this popular Russian River park and wants public feedback on potential improvements.
Memorial Beach has long been considered a haven of summer refuge and with your input, it will stay that way. (Before you get carried away, we can’t fulfill every wish. If you envision a Six Flags water slide theme park, don't get your hopes up.)
Sonoma County Regional Parks and the city of Healdsburg want to hear what you enjoy about the park and what you would like to see in the future. Suggestions could include a dedicated launch for kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards and easier portage around the beach’s summer dam. Other possibilities include a wheelchair-accessible path to the lifeguarded swimming area, a “destination playground” and other family-oriented amenities, a renovated concession building, and expanded picnic areas.
Not Your Typical Park
Veterans Memorial Beach has been used by visitors and residents for community events and access to the Russian River for over a century. As early as 1905, settlers built log dams at this location to create a swimming and boating area for the general public. The 11.5-acre park lies within Healdsburg's city limits and forms the southern gateway into the city, which makes connecting the park to the community a top priority.
Unlike other county parks, Memorial Beach has never had a long term development plan created by Regional Parks. The land was acquired from Sonoma County’s General Services Department over several years between 1948 and 1964 – well before the creation of the county’s general plan for development and the California Environmental Quality Act. Thus, Memorial Beach was treated like many firstborn children: with a “learn-as-you-go” attitude toward development.
Despite its unconventional upbringing within the Regional Parks family, Memorial Beach flourished and became one of the most popular swim spots along the Russian River. In turn, Memorial Beach’s de facto parents – the City of Healdsburg and Regional Parks – have glowed with pride and now are hoping to shower it with some well-deserved attention i.e., a master plan.
Ironically, Regional Parks Planner Mark Cleveland said the fact that the park already had restrooms and other amenities on site is likely the reason the park didn’t go through the master planning process earlier.
“We already had existing facilities that had been serving the public,” said Cleveland. “But the demographics of the city and community, as well as recreational needs in general, are all shifting. We want to make sure our planning reflects it and is meeting the community needs now and in the future.”
A majority of the existing facilities were built more than 30 years ago under a General Services facility development plan. And as exciting as a “facilities development plan” sounds, it could use some finessing from those most familiar with the park – its visitors.
Help Us Create a Plan
Board of Supervisors Chairman James Gore – whose 4th District includes Memorial Beach – said the county hopes residents will help to create a vision for the park tailored to the community’s needs. “This beach has been a popular gathering spot for more than a century. A master plan will let us set a course for the coming decades and better support a healthy community and healthy watershed.”
A June 7 workshop in the park will be the first of several opportunities the public will have to help guide the park’s redevelopment and natural resource management. This initial opportunity will help lay a foundation for the master plan, so come tell us what you think.
Future public input sessions will be scheduled once the designers create three preferred alternatives, based partially on information gleaned from this first meeting.
The master planning project is funded by transient occupancy tax revenue awarded by the Board of Supervisors, the city of Healdsburg, park mitigation fees, and the Regional Parks Foundation. Any new features in the final master plan would be built when additional funding becomes available.
Are you thinking about how to improve Memorial Beach now? Care to share?
Janelle Wetzstein is a marketing specialist at Sonoma County Regional Parks.