Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Imagine a 300-mile trail from San Francisco Bay to Humboldt Bay taking hikers, bicycle and horseback riders through a stunning North Coast river canyon and old growth redwood forests.
It would cost untold millions of dollars and won’t come soon, but the idea for what’s called the Great Redwood Trail is embodied in state Sen. Mike McGuire’s bill, which would also abolish a debt-ridden public agency and put commuter train operator Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit in charge of railroad freight service in its two counties.
The buzz is all about a trail along railroad tracks through some territory most people have never seen and which advocates are likening to the 210-mile John Muir Trail through the Sierra Nevada.
“It’s an amazing prospect,” said Alisha O’Loughlin, executive director of the 1,000-member Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition. “Something we’re very enthusiastic about.”
The trail, affording “gorgeous recreational opportunities,” would draw cyclists and equestrians from far and wide, she said.
The coalition’s only concern is that work on the trail not take priority over completion of pathways along the 70-mile SMART corridor in Sonoma and Marin counties. Just 16 miles of pathways have been built to date in segments from Healdsburg to San Rafael.
Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8406036-181/north-coasts-great-redwood-trail
Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The estuary of Tolay Creek southeast of Petaluma offers refuge to a host of wildlife, including rare shorebirds and waterfowl and a species of endangered mouse that lives only in the salt marshes of San Francisco Bay.
But the tidal waterway, which widens as it drains into San Pablo Bay just south of where it crosses under Highway 37, also sits in the way of a key link in the 500-mile trail envisioned to one day circle San Francisco Bay. About 70 percent of the network is complete.
To span the creek and close the 0.8-mile gap between two existing trails, parks officials are proposing a foot and bike path with a hefty projected price tag: $9 million to $14 million, depending on the design and alignment.
“It’s not a cheap endeavor,” said Ken Tam, planner with Sonoma County Regional Parks. “Where the trail alignment is located is actually in mud flats, and the materials to support a pier structure have to go very, very deep in the bedding to be sound. That increases the overall cost of the construction.”
The money could come from an proposed ballot measure in June that would increase in tolls on state-owned bridges in the Bay Area by $1 to raise an estimated $4.45 billion for transportation upgrades in the region. Up to $100 million could go to a long-delayed overhaul of Highway 37, where rebuilding costs are estimated at $1 billion to $4 billion.
The proposed Sears Point trail connector was endorsed as a parks priority last month by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors after an initial study highlighting the recreational demand and obstacles associated with the project.
Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8156043-181/sonoma-county-advances-key-bay
Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
State Sen. Mike McGuire is proposing to reorganize management of the North Coast’s railroad system aimed at enabling people to walk — not ride — along a trail from San Francisco Bay to Humboldt Bay, including the spectacular Eel River Canyon in Mendocino and Humboldt counties.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said McGuire, D-Healdsburg, to create a “world-class experience in our own backyard.”
Caryl Hart, a former Sonoma County parks director, joined McGuire in hailing the proposed trail as an opportunity to traverse the coastal redwoods from Cloverdale to Arcata.
“It’s a dream,” she said likening the trail along the tracks to the Pacific Crest Trail through the Sierra Nevada and giving the local area an economic boost in the process. “I really think it has the potential to be a bedrock of the economy of the North Coast.”
Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8114152-181/proposed-rail-plan-envisions-world
Glen Martin, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County Trails Council
If you’ve hiked a newly built or reconstructed trail in one of Sonoma County’s regional parks, there’s a good chance Ken Wells had a hand in it.
Wells, director of the Sonoma County Trails Council, a key partner for the county park agency, is a connoisseur of the grunt work that goes into carving paths for hikers, bikers and horse riders in rugged terrain.He has been toiling in one capacity or another for the trails group for 25 years, building trails, supervising crews and goading people into volunteering for local parks.
“Most of my work consists of putting people together with projects that need doing,” said Wells, 63.
At one time, such public park maintenance was carried out by government crews — county, state or federal. These days, much of the burden falls on volunteers. And that’s not such a bad thing, said Wells, who thinks that support for regional parks has grown because local people are more heavily invested in stewardship.Indeed, most if not all of the park trail work in Sonoma County occurs either under the direct auspices or with the support of the Trails Council, which is also marking its 50th anniversary this year. Council crews regularly labor at Helen Putnam and Taylor Mountain Regional Parks, putting in new trail segments and rehabilitating existing ones. Overall, more than 150 miles of trail traverse county parks, with dozens of additional miles planned for existing and future sites.
Read more at: Trails Council sustains hardy volunteer corps for Sonoma County Regional Parks | The Press Democrat –
Bill Swindell, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County’s newest hiking trail officially opened Sunday just a few hundred yards from the often backed up and typically frustrating Highway 37.
The Eliot Trail, located at the edge of tidal wetlands near where Lakeville Highway meets Highway 37, gives travelers an experience opposite to the nearby roadway.
The two-and-a-half mile trail offers walkers, joggers and cyclists a tranquil view of Mount Tamalpais and the skyscrapers of San Francisco as they traverse the flank of the new northern border of San Pablo Bay.
“It is such nice place to take a run,” said Julian Meisler, the Baylands program manager for Sonoma Land Trust. “For Sonoma County, this is one of the best access points we have to the bay.”
Jim Jackson of Sonoma said he was impressed with the extremely flat trail after doing the round-trip five-mile hike with his wife, Sharon.
“You get great views of the entire bay. It’s extremely peaceful and quiet out there. You can hear the water lapping by you,” Jackson said. “You realize how quickly you are away from 37.”
Read more at: New Sonoma County hiking trail opens up along San Pablo Bay | The Press Democrat
Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Generations of kids and other nature lovers will continue to enjoy outdoor experiences at a Mark West Creek ranch northeast of Santa Rosa under a new conservation deal that maintains public access to the property in perpetuity.
More broadly, open space advocates say preservation of the 124-acre Rancho Mark West builds upon a legacy of protecting land from development in the sensitive environmental area while offering the public more opportunities to engage with nature a short distance away from Santa Rosa.
“We hope to be able to walk people from Santa Rosa to Rancho Mark West to spend the night. That would be a pretty incredible opportunity,” said Craig Anderson, executive director of the nonprofit group LandPaths.
LandPaths will continue to operate In Our Own Backyard, Owl Camp and other popular outdoor programs for kids at the St. Helena Road ranch under an updated conservation easement that protects public access to the site.
Read more: Public open space outside Santa Rosa grows with | The Press Democrat
Rob Jordan, STANFORD REPORT
Feeling down? Take a hike.
A new study finds quantifiable evidence that walking in nature could lead to a lower risk of depression.
Specifically, the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, found that people who walked for 90 minutes in a natural area, as opposed to participants who walked in a high-traffic urban setting, showed decreased activity in a region of the brain associated with a key factor in depression.
“These results suggest that accessible natural areas may be vital for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world,” said co-author Gretchen Daily, the Bing Professor in Environmental Science and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. “Our findings can help inform the growing movement worldwide to make cities more livable, and to make nature more accessible to all who live in them.”
More than half of the world’s population lives in urban settings, and that is forecast to rise to 70 percent within a few decades. Just as urbanization and disconnection from nature have grown dramatically, so have mental disorders such as depression.
In fact, city dwellers have a 20 percent higher risk of anxiety disorders and a 40 percent higher risk of mood disorders as compared to people in rural areas. People born and raised in cities are twice as likely to develop schizophrenia.
Is exposure to nature linked to mental health? If so, the researchers asked, what are nature’s impacts on emotion and mood? Can exposure to nature help “buffer” against depression?
Read more at: Stanford researchers find mental health prescription: Nature
Vinny Schwartz, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
Click here for downloadable maps.
Wildlife abounds in Sonoma County during all seasons and includes seals, sea lions and the occasional elephant seal and the twice-annual flotilla of Humpbacks. There are bobcats, skunk, otter, raccoon, fox, muskrat, deer, coyote and lions. Also voles, opossum, mice, rats and a raft of amphibians, lizards and fish. The black bear has made a tremendous comeback as well with estimates of more than 30,000 in Northern California alone.
But no form of wildlife is viewed as often as birds. Open ocean, rocky coast, beaches, estuaries, bays, rivers and streams, wetlands, chaparral, farmland, vineyards, forested hills and mountains provide habitat for over 394 species of birds. This provides a rewarding and engaging pursuit for people of all ages making bird-watching America’s most popular and widespread hobby.
The mouth of the Russian River is reported to have 70 breeding bird species within a five-kilometer ‘block’ which encompasses it, according to the Madrone Audubon Society. It’s tops among the 195 blocks Madrone delineated to assist them in their breeding bird census.
Many species are more common during spring, autumn and winter but since we’re into summer, listed are a few of the more abundant and common summertime and year round species and where they might be found.
In the woodland and brush along Austin Creek where it empties into the Russian near Casini’s campgrounds there’s an abundance of bird life. Houses line Austin Creek and their yards provide habitat for many species as well.
It’s where four different habitats, each especially attractive to particular species, come together. Thus pelagic birds like cormorants and gulls make excursions up from the river mouth, riparian birds such as herons, wood ducks, kingfisher which favor riverine wetlands are common (actually they’re spectacular but they’re still Common).
Meadow and garden birds such as woodpeckers, grosbeaks and orioles, thrushes like the Swainson’s which we hear but rarely see, bluebirds, flickers and dozens more.
Soaring hawks abound, buteos such as red-tails, red shouldered hawks, along with turkey vultures and the occasional bald-eagle.
Osprey are common and may be heard, seen and discovered in their nests without much trouble.
Read more at: Sonoma County Bird Watching, Bike Rides and Hikes – Part 2