This could be the pivotal year for the Southeast Greenway Campaign, a community-based effort to convert the Highway 12 right-of-way in Santa Rosa into a two-mile greenway connecting Farmers Lane with Spring Lake.
The Southeast Greenway offers a great opportunity to convert vacant land into a valuable resource that will benefit the whole community, providing alternative transportation through bike and pedestrian paths, an educational resource, open space for recreation and community gardens, and a restored natural habitat with three streams, oak woodlands and grasslands. It will also provide an east-west link from Sonoma Valley to the SMART path and to West County trails.
Studies show that, besides offering new possibilities for exercise and recreation, similar greenways in other communities are an economic asset, attracting tourists as well as employers seeking quality amenities.
Since Caltrans has abandoned plans to extend the freeway and the Santa Rosa City Council voted unanimously to initiate a general plan amendment to rezone the property, there will be public meetings this year to determine the best use of the land, appraisals will be prepared to arrive at a fair price, and efforts will be launched for its transfer to local ownership.
The Greenway Campaign was recently awarded a Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance grant from the National Park Service to promote the Greenway story through the media, and completed a very successful fundraising effort this fall.
This year's campaign kicks off with a community event called "Southeast Greenway 2016: The Time Is Now" on Feb. 20, from 10am to noon, at Montgomery High School in Santa Rosa. The meeting will provide an opportunity for members of the community to learn more about the Greenway and how to participate in the planning and fundraising process.
David Koehler, the new executive director of Sonoma Land Trust, the Greenway's fiscal sponsor, will give a talk called "Greenways: Their Power to Connect Us." Those interested in attending this free event can register at southeastgreenway.org.
Tony White is a retired Sonoma State history professor living in Santa Rosa and a volunteer on the Southeast Greenway Campaign.
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