First Property for Petaluma River Path (CA)

PETALUMA, 2/20/02—The Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced today the purchase of a 3.3-acre former industrial site valued at $430,000 along the Petaluma River. TPL purchased what is known as the Willitts/Grange property and then conveyed it to the City of Petaluma as part of the proposed Petaluma River Access and Enhancement Plan project. The purchase is the first of several more planned purchases along the Upper Corona Reach of the Petaluma River, which will provide public parks, pedestrian and bike trails, and river access along a 6.5 mile stretch of the river including downtown Petaluma.

“We are very excited to begin the creation of the Petaluma River Path on this reach of the river, which will not only beautify our city and provide wildlife habitat and recreation areas, but also will contribute significantly to flood control and water quality through stream restoration. We are grateful for the help of the Trust for Public Land and the Petaluma Watershed Foundation,” says Frederick C. Stouder, Petaluma City Manager.

In May 2000 the City of Petaluma and the local Petaluma Watershed Foundation approached TPL seeking assistance in the implementation of the River Plan. TPL negotiated an agreement with the Willitts property landowners and successfully sought public funding for the property’s purchase and restoration from the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) through a $567,000 grant from the Urban Streams Restoration Program. Kurt Malchow of DWR says, “the public acquisition and subsequent restoration and enhancement of this property will help protect it from conversion to industrial uses and, by controlling urban runoff, assist in nonpoint source pollution control. By protecting and restoring the property’s natural riparian habitats we will also see a reduction of flood hazards.”

“The purchase of this property is a tremendous opportunity to simulaneously restore and preserve floodway land along the Petaluma River, provide native plant and animal species with critical habitat and refuge, and provide the public convenient access to the river. Implementation of the River Plan will not only help restore safe passageways for wildlife between the downstream salt marshes and the uplands through the most urbanized corridor of the watershed, but it will also provide the public awareness of and useful connection to our unique water system,” says Andy Rodgers of the Petaluma Watershed Foundation.

“This conservation project serves so many purposes,” says Sonia Jacques, senior project manager for TPL. “The public will have access to the river for hiking and biking; and the purchase enables the city to implement innovative ways to help solve issues of flooding, stream erosion, and sedimentation. We look forward to helping the City of Petaluma bring their River Plan to life.”

The Trust for Public Land works nationwide to secure land for parks and open space, transferring property to local, state, or federal agencies and private land stewards for permanent public protection. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 1.2 million acres of scenic, cultural, recreational, and environmentally sensitive lands across the country. Dedicated to ensuring public access, improving water quality, and providing wildlife habitat, TPL’s Western Rivers Program works to reestablish and protect the natural functions of river systems. To date TPL has protected more than 30,000 acres of threatened river and wetland resources in California and has helped establish the Los Angeles River Greenway, the Tuolumne River Parkway, and the San Joaquin River Parkway.