A Push for New West County Bike Trails

Sebastopol resident Lynn Deedler has big plans to get walkers and bikers off the highways. Though Sebastopol has a reputation for supporting green programs and businesses and is halfway along the Joe Rodota & West County trails, the two state highways that pass through town make it less friendly for folks who want to get around on their own power. Deedler, a member of the Sebastopol Design Review Board, has been putting in countless hours promoting alternatives that parallel Hwy 116 (a north-south route) and Hwy 12/Bodega Ave. (an east-west route). Regional Parks and the Sebastopol City Council have both endorsed the idea -- an critical element toward being eligible for grants and other funding for feasibility studies and beyond. The County is particularly interested because it would jump-start a long-dormant plan to convert the abandoned Petaluma & Santa Rosa Railroad route from Bloomfield Road in Sebastopol to Petaluma into an 11-mile long recreational trail. When the rail corridor was abandoned in the 1980s, the rights of way reverted to the original (or subsequent) owners of properties along the way. Many sections would have to be purchased or alternatives found, but one of the main barriers has been the lack of connection at the Sebastopol end. Deedler's route runs from Bloomfield Road north to the Rodota Trail along the edge of the city; he has spoken with all the property owners along the way and found them nearly all to be receptive to considering rights-of-way for a trail. This trail would make a direct connection with the proposed Sebastopol-Petaluma trail and, with the Rodota and SMART Train corridor trail, would create a grand loop for commuting and recreational outings.

Deedler and his group, Sebastopol Trail Makers, would like to see an additional route -- largely off-street -- paralleling Bodega Ave. to connect the Rodota Trail to the schools on Watertrough Road, to the west of the City. The two trails could be connected by route curving around to the south of town to create a local loop approximately 7 miles long. If the Deedler's plans come to fruition, they will significantly bolster Sebastopol's reputation for bike-friendliness.

The next step is a feasibility study. Regional Parks wants to cover the entire length from Petaluma to Sebastopol, though most of the focus would likely be on the stretch between Bloomfield and the Rodota Trail due to the large number of private parcels involved; south of Bloomfield on the old Petaluma & Santa Rosa RR right-of-way should be less problematic. Regional Parks had an option to apply for funding for the feasibility study this year, but since a major project in Sonoma Valley was already underway, they decided to wait until the next funding cycle. Although the Sebastopol Trail Maker are eager to get underway, the delay will likely make for a stronger case next year.