Placeholder Image Courtesy Google earth
Aerial view looking east from Farmers Lane

It's not often that a local city council meeting is interrupted by a standing ovation, but after years of agitation and a decade long wait, Santa Rosa is moving forward with plans for a two-mile-long linear park. It will extend downhill from Spring Lake and Trione-Annadel State Park to Farmers Lane.

Action earlier this week clears the way for city administrators to finalize and ink a deal with Caltrans for Santa Rosa to buy the strip of land, assembled more than a half century ago. Originally it was meant to serve as an extension of Highway 12's freeway section over what's now Spring Lake Park and over the ridge to north of Oakmont. Grassroots neighborhood opposition in the late '80s and 90's stopped that.

Just over $2 million dollars has been raised for the purchase. Officials expect to have money left over, hinting they expect a lower price, though details of the negotiations haven't been disclosed.

City councilman Chris Rogers summed up the mood in the chamber.

"I know folks have thought this was a Sisyphean task from the get-go, trying to move bureaucracies and trying to acquire the land, and now we get to the fun part," Rogers said.

The city intends to buy 49-acres, with the state transportation agency holding on to 10. As many as 244 units of affordable housing are planned for land remaining with Caltrans.

Under the terms, the city agreed to waive requirements for the eventual developers of those units to set aside park space, as the units will be directly adjoining the future park. The council also approved resolutions setting the land aside for "a public purpose" and forbidding development "in perpetuity," both terms of the agreement.

What Rogers termed fun, could prove the hardest, if not the lengthiest part.

Tuesday's meeting was scant on details. There was no estimate for when the park might open, only vows for a robust, multi-year public planning process.

Funds for the build out? They would come from future grants. Conceptually, the park could include playgrounds and tot lots, sports fields and courts, walking paths, community gardens and a dog park along with cultural and gathering spots.

Still, there's much to celebrate. Jill Scott, the city's property negotiator, said she's confident that whatever the community decides it wants, can be delivered.

"There's plenty of room for everyone to have everything they want," Scott said.

A bike path is a given. Scott says planners are already trying to devise safer routes linking the future path with the Prince Memorial Greenway, which itself connects with the Santa Rosa Creek and Joe Rodota trails.

Addressing the council, Eris Weaver, executive director of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, praised both the moves, and the advocates who spend decades pushing, calling them an inspiration.

"You have been such a role model for me of patience, persistence, fundraising, taking the long view, being a...I was gonna say a word I probably shouldn't I say in public, when you need to be, to get things done," Weaver said.

Officials say they hope to win final approval of the deal from the California Transportation Commission in January.


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