Sonoma Valley bike trail feasibility study planned this summer
The feasibility study for an approximately 13-mile bike trail that would run along the Hwy. 12 corridor from Melita Road in Santa Rosa to Agua Caliente Road in Sonoma is on track, reported Ken Tam, the project manager for Sonoma County Regional Parks, which is overseeing the project known as the Sonoma Valley Trail.
Tam presented a status update on the Sonoma Valley Trail, and two other Sonoma Valley bike trails under development, to the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission at its April 23 meeting. The Central Sonoma Valley Trail, planned to run from Agua Caliente Road to Verano Ave., and the Sonoma Schellville Trail, running along 8th St. East in Sonoma to Hwy. 121, are also both under development in projects spearheaded by Sonoma County Regional Parks.
Ultimately, the three trails would connect with each other and then connect near Hwy. 121 with the future San Francisco Bay Trail, a 500-mile shoreline trail around the Bay, making it feasible to ride or walk on designated bike paths from Melita Road in Santa Rosa to San Pablo Bay.
The Central Sonoma Valley Trail, identified in the 1997 County Bikeways Plan, and the Sonoma Schellville Trail, which Tam reported as a high priority for First District Supervisor Susan Gorin, are currently more tangible, with construction on parts of the Central Sonoma Valley Trail to begin in spring 2015.
The Sonoma Valley Trail was identified in the County’s 2010 Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, but so far lacks any funding beyond a feasibility study. In October 2013 Sonoma County Regional Parks secured a $190,575 grant from Caltrans for the study. The County is also contributing approximately $21,000 towards the study. Initial plans call for the trail to be a Class I paved bike path, eight feet wide, with a five-foot-wide buffer from the road or highway.
Tam reported that a call for consultant proposals will go out this month, with data collection to begin in June. In August and September, Regional Parks plans to identify stakeholders and distribute community surveys. The Sonoma County Regional Water Agency owns an existing public right-of-way paralleling Hwy. 12 from Melita Road into Boyes Hot Springs, but the study area will not be limited only to that right-of-way. Tam said the county plans to hold two community stakeholder meetings in September and November 2014 and that a draft of the feasibility study should be finalized and released by March 2015.
Based on the most feasible trail sections identified by the study, the county would then apply for grants to provide funding for the project’s next steps, which would include environmental work, acquisition, permits and construction.
Study or no study, the Board of Supervisors is expected to approve in the near future an “irrevocable offer of dedication” from Hamel Family Wines that will eventually become part of the proposed Sonoma Valley Trail. The Hamel family agreed to the trail dedication as a condition for the 2012 approval of their new vineyard and winery across from Madrone Road at 15401 Sonoma Hwy.
In response to a question from commissioner Kirsten Lindquist about the Sonoma Valley Trail project’s anticipated completion date, Tam pointed to the Joe Rodota Trail as an example. “I worked on that project before I had any gray hair,” he joked. Tam said the Rodota Trail took almost 20 years to complete and there is still an unfinished piece in downtown Forestville. To put the Sonoma Valley Trail project in perspective, the Joe Rodota Trail had funding coming from 20 different sources. The key to project completion is the county’s ability to secure funding.
While the commission expressed general support and excitement about the Sonoma Valley Trail, Lindquist added, “I would like to see a sense of urgency on the part of the county given there’s so many cyclists using the road already.” Lindquist said she hoped leaders will look at securing funding for this project as a priority “so we won’t have to wait 20 years” to see the project realized.
Questions or comments about the Sonoma Valley Trail can be directed to Ken Tam at email@example.com. Subscribe to project updates at www.parks.sonomacounty.ca.gov/ by clicking on “Sign up for planning updates.”
Sarah Phelps is an editor and reporter. She was raised in Kenwood and has a BA from Loyola Marymount University.