Imagine the freeway heading east past Farmers Lane, parallel to Hoen Avenue, across that puddle formerly known as Spring Lake, carving a big chunk off Annadel State Park as it zooms past Oakmont on the way to Sonoma. That image sounds like a terrible idea today, but that was the vision of CalTrans engineers in the early 60’s. With that plan for the freeway, the state of California purchased a large swath of empty lots extending from the end of what became Highway 12 at Farmers Lane, past Montgomery high school all the way up past Summerfield Road and beyond. In 1960 Santa Rosa had a population of 31,000 residents, mostly clustered north of College Avenue and downtown. Flash forward to today, Santa Rosa has swelled 5 fold in population, eating up the surrounding ranchland in all directions. An aerial map curiously reveals a 52 acre chunk of empty land neatly nestled in the middle of town.
“So what does this have to do with me?” you might ask, and “why is this bit of trivia on the Empire Runners blog?”.
About five years ago a group called the Southeast Greenway Project approached us with the germ of an idea about acquiring this land and turning it into a huge green space including running and cycling trails. Empire Runners was one of the early groups to see the potential of this for the community, and we’ve been donating seed money to do studies, hire consultants and assess the feasibility of the idea. A large open space surrounded by urban development rarely comes available in any city, a blank slate for to imagine what we want to make best use of this resource.
At our May meeting, we were given an update by 2 members of the committee on the progress to date and a few of the hurdles in the near future. As you can imagine, there are many layers of bureaucracy to cut through, from state ownership to overlapping city agencies all wanting to be involved. The dedicated volunteers of the Santa Rosa Southeast Greenway have been working tirelessly to get input from the public on what we would like to include in this project. I urge you to sign up for updates on their website http://www.southeastgreenway.org/ and envision what a game-changer this could be for our area, and feel proud that your club is helping to move this along.