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Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach Renovation

Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach - people enjoying the beach

What & Why?

Regional Parks has been operating the Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach (HVMB) since 1967 when the parks department was created. The majority of the HVMB facilities were constructed in the 1960s and ‘70s without a Master Plan document to guide the property’s development, public access, recreational and educational uses, and habitat enhancements. Also, because the park pre-dated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), an environmental study wasn’t completed for it. 

The goal of this project is to work together with the City of Healdsburg and the community to plan for new park facilities and programs, based on the current and future community needs. We intend to balance ideas for new park features, including recreational and infrastructure improvements, with natural resource conservation, to create a Master Plan that is sensitive to and ultimately improves the unique river environment.

When we started this master plan project several years ago, we prioritized limiting construction work within the river beyond what is currently permitted for the seasonal dam and beach grading. However, the latest proposal envisions an entirely new type of river park at Healdsburg Veteran’s Memorial Beach, one without the dam.

The below video shows examples of this vision from several other states where water parks have been built for public use.

We propose replacing the existing steeply sloped beach with a more gently sloped beach, creating level terraced areas for picnics and sunbathing, all connected by accessible pathways. Instead of installing the dam each summer season, the beach area will provide a series of permanent terraced pools designed for swimming and water recreation, with sandy areas for access. This will allow people to enjoy the river and park for several more months of the year, without having to rely on the dam being installed.

This project aims to enhance public access to the Russian River, especially for launching non-motorized boats and paddle craft such as kayaks and canoes, increase the seasonal use of the park, and provide a destination for families with family-friendly amenities.

Goals also include making long-term improvements to infrastructure and utilities, including providing sanitary sewer service improvements to the park to meet new regulatory agency requirements. 

The project will also improve the overall health of the river by removing a major obstacle – the dam – that seasonally impedes fish passage and a contributes to an increase in water temperature and seasonal algal blooms.

Healdbsurg Veterans Memorial Beach Renovation schematic cross-section

Since before we began operating the public park, a dam has been installed seasonally in this area on the Russian River to create a public swimming area in the summer along the park's wide, sandy beach. 

The seasonal dam has been updated over the years, including the addition of a fish ladder by the Sonoma County Water Agency to provide fish passage during the months the dam is in place. Regulatory issues surrounding the dam and fish ladder continue to be a part of the annual cost associated with the seasonal installation and removal of the dam, and operation and maintenance of the park facilities.

Over the decades the dam has been installed, regulatory agencies have placed new requirements and restrictions on the dam, including shortening the operable time of the dam due to fish passage concerns and the dam’s impact on water temperatures. The dam is also in need of major repairs, and the allowable height of the dam may decrease based on annual assessments of its structural integrity. 

The regulatory agencies, through the permit process, will continue to review and place conditions on any project that proposes improvements within the river. The major changes proposed as part of the master plan, environmental document, and resource management plan will also be reviewed by those agencies.

What's Next?

To gather input from the public on the proposed changes to the master plan vision for HVMB, we’ll be presenting at public meetings, including the Healdsburg City Council and the Sonoma County Environmental Review Committee. We’ll also be conducting additional online and in-person public surveys. A link to the online survey, when available, will be posted on this webpage.

Feedback gathered from this additional public outreach will be incorporated into a final draft Master Plan, which will be submitted to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors for review.

Prior community workshops, surveys, and other public input, which centered around only upland improvements, are still relevant as they determined existing use patterns at the park and prioritized the types of facilities desired by the public.

Learn more about survey results and public outreach:

Learn more about the project funding and park history: