Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Santa Rosa signed off Tuesday on long-sought deal paving the way for Caltrans to transfer a strip of land to the city and county for what proponents hope will become a future urban greenway.
The unanimous vote by the City Council, which followed a similar nod by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors last month, was cheered by dozens of supporters wearing green shirts reading “Imagine a greenway to Spring Lake and beyond.”
The members of the Southeast Greenway Campaign have worked for years to convince Caltrans officials to turn over 52 acres of former Highway 12 right-of-way to groups that can preserve the land for public open space, bike paths and other uses.
“There’s been long-standing interest in pursuing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our community,” said Linda Proulx, co-chair of the campaign.The agreement states that Caltrans will offer the city and Sonoma County Water Agency the right of first refusal to purchase the property. The city has agreed to take ownership of the largest portion, from Farmers Lane to Summerfield Avenue, while the county has said it will take the portion running east uphill to Spring Lake. Caltrans has already agreed it does not need the land it acquired decades ago for a now-defunct plan to extend Highway 12 over Spring Lake, bypassing the busy Farmers Lane area.
Convincing the state agency not to just declare the property surplus and sell it to the highest bidder was considered a crucial step. Vice Mayor Chris Coursey doubted it would ever happen.
“When I first heard this proposal, I thought, ‘Caltrans is never going to give up that land,’ ” Coursey said.
Much work remains to be done. The property still needs to be appraised, a price agreed upon, money raised, and a plan for the land approved.