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Debriefer: May 11, 2016 

Restored Sears Point marshland joins ambitious SF Bay Trail

click to enlarge debrief-79b44f7806ae7f1f.jpg

Sonoma County's border with San Francisco Bay is underexplored, but that could change with a soon-to-open trail.

Sonoma Land Trust, the San Francisco Bay Trail and the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge are hosting an event on Sunday, May 15, to officially open a new 2.5-mile section of the San Francisco Bay Trail through the land trust's Sears Point Wetland Restoration Project.

The new stretch of trail is at Reclamation Road, south of the Highway 37 and Lakeville Highway intersection.

The celebration will begin with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 2:30pm with emcee Doug McConnell of NBC's OpenRoad. Speakers will include U.S. Representative Mike Thompson's chief of staff Stephen Gale, Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt and representatives of the Sonoma Land Trust, San Francisco Bay Trail, San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge and Nancy Wiseman of the Dickson Family, former owners of the ranch. Following the speech-making, the trail will be opened to the public and will remain open daily. McConnell will lead the first official hike down the trail.

"We are overjoyed to be sharing this long-planned trail with the community, and to also be turning this property over to the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge to manage for the future," said Sonoma Land Trust executive director Dave Koehler in a statement. "This is the best access point to the bay in Sonoma County, and people are really going to enjoy walking along here and watching the new tidal marsh evolve."

The new trail flanks the tidal wetlands at Sears Point, the focus of a marsh-restoration project 10 years in the making. Last fall, Sonoma Land Trust breached the levee at Sears Point to allow the tides to return to 1,000 acres of land that was diked off from the bay in the late 1800s. The new trail section is part of a planned 500-mile path around the entire San Francisco Bay.

The Sears Point Wetland Restoration Project could become part of larger restoration plans if voters pass Measure AA in June. The measure, on the ballot in all nine Bay Area counties, is a $12 parcel tax to raise funds for trash removal, habitat restoration and enhancing wetlands and increasing public access. If approved, the measure will raise $25 million a year for 20 years.

The new trail will also link to the older 1.5-mile Bay Trail at Sonoma Baylands, which starts at Port Sonoma, allowing hikers and birders to trek four miles each way.

"This new 2.5-mile segment of Bay Trail represents the best in collaboration and highlights the myriad benefits that can accrue from wetland restoration," says Laura Thompson, San Francisco Bay Trail project manager. "Between the Sonoma Land Trust and its many partners, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Association of Bay Area Governments' San Francisco Bay Trail Project, the public at large will be able to access yet another spectacular piece of the Bay shoreline."

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