On February 6, 2024, the Sonoma County Ag + Open Space Board of Directors voted in favor of allocating up to $1 million, over half of the purchase price, in Matching Grant funds to support the acquisition of the 49-acre Southeast Greenway property.
“We are so grateful to the community for their commitment and vision, and sticking with this project over the years,” said Ag + Open Space Director Susan Gorin. “We are thrilled to be able to support the work of turning what was once land for a freeway into a vibrant public park.”
Decades of work has already gone into creating a “Central Park” for Sonoma County’s largest city, in no small part led by the community-member driven Santa Rosa Southeast Greenway Campaign, and through the collaboration of several agencies, including: the City of Santa Rosa, Sonoma Land Trust, Sonoma Water, Sonoma County Regional Parks and LandPaths.
“It’s exciting to now be moving into the planning stage,” said Thea Hensel of the Santa Rosa Southeast Greenway Campaign. “This acquisition is a major milestone, and we’re glad that Supervisor Gorin and Ag + Open Space have the foresight to see how this land will benefit our community.”
The project was originally selected as an Ag + Open Space Matching Grant project in 2016, and the now-in-motion acquisition will include a conservation easement and recreation covenant over a majority of the property to ensure this land is forever conserved for public recreation and urban open space protection.
Our Matching Grant Program aims to support the development and enhancement of open spaces by working with local government agencies and nonprofits to purchase and conserve natural and working lands right within our cities and towns, while also creating opportunities for everyone to have equitable access to the outdoors.
In the 1950’s and 60’s, this nearly 2-mile strip of open space that runs from Farmer’s Lane to Spring Lake Regional Park was purchased by Caltrans to extend Highway 12 eastward. By the 1990s, the City of Santa Rosa removed the freeway extension from their General Plan, and in 2014 the State adopted a resolution rescinding the freeway adoption due to lack of operational need, local support and funding. The property continues to sit vacant today. Over several decades, a community-led vision of a community park arose, and in 2009 neighbors officially formed the Santa Rosa Southeast Greenway Campaign to make that vision come alive.
“We are grateful to all our partners for their support in helping to move this vision closer to reality for our community,” said Santa Rosa City Manager Maraskeshia Smith. “This Greenway will provide a vibrant active greenspace, and will provide connectivity for bicyclists and pedestrians to the east and west areas of the county while helping to meet our climate goals.”
While the Greenway planning process is still in motion, this park is set to connect visitors with Spring Lake Regional Park, Howarth City Park, and Trione-Annadel State Park. The Greenway will also provide pedestrian pathways and bike route options connecting the western section at Farmers Lane to the Prince Memorial Greenway, which ultimately connects to the Joe Rodota Trail and Western Sonoma County. This is a huge leap in connectivity for all of Santa Rosa and Sonoma County.
In addition to bicycle and pedestrian connectivity and recreational possibilities, this land is crossed by three creeks – Matanzas, Sierra Park and Spring. Conservation of this land creates new opportunities for creek and wildlife habitat restoration, while also helping to clean our air, offer a cool place amidst urban heat islands, and hold space for people to explore with joy and wonder of the natural world.
Sonoma Land Trust and the Greenway Campaign are providing the additional $827,000 in matching funds to complete the purchase. These funds were raised from foundations and private individuals including the Community Foundation of Sonoma County, the Saba Foundation, the Mead Foundation and hundreds of individual gifts, both large and small.
According to Sonoma Land Trust’s Land Acquisition Director John McCaull, “Since 2015, we have held the role as a central convener, bringing together government agencies, community groups and funders to accomplish a very big win for people and nature. This land will be transformed into a convenient and beautiful gateway to the natural world for thousands of Santa Rosa residents and visitors, and a critical piece of climate resilient infrastructure for the city.”
Next steps include working with partners on finalizing the acquisition and conservation easement, and finalizing the acquisition documents between the City and Caltrans, with hopes to close the transaction within the next six months. Additionally, the City of Santa Rosa will need to formally accept the funds, covenants, and conservation easement, with the item tentatively scheduled for City Council at their March 5, 2024 meeting at 4:00pm. Santa Rosa City Council agendas and information on how to participate can be found here.
About Sonoma County Ag + Open Space
Sonoma County Ag + Open Space permanently protects the diverse agricultural, natural resource and scenic open space lands of Sonoma County for future generations. The agency is responsible for the perpetual protection of over 124,000 acres of land throughout our region. These agricultural and open space lands are protected through a quarter-cent sales tax approved by voters in 1990 and reauthorized in 2006. For more information, please visit www.sonomaopenspace.org.
Visit Southeast Greenway for additional information