Nearly three decades after Cloverdale, Calif., purchased land for a riverside park, residents finally have public access to the Russian River. In a joint project with the Sonoma County Regional Parks Department, the city completed the second phase of the $1.56 million, 72-acre Cloverdale River Park in March, which included construction of the only public, multi-use trail along the 100-mile-long river.
Cloverdale is a small municipality at the northern end of Sonoma County with approximately 6,000 residents. In 1968, the city bought 32 acres along the Russian River with the help of Sonoma County and the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District. It used five acres of the property to build a water treatment plant in the 1980s, but the rest of the land remained undeveloped because of the lack of funds for a park.
In the mid-1990s, the county Open Space District, which is funded by a one-cent sales tax, purchased an additional 40 acres adjacent to the city’s property, and the Sonoma County Regional Parks Department revived plans to open the area for recreation. City and county leaders thought the park could attract residents from northern Sonoma County and southern Mendocino County into nearby downtown Cloverdale, whose businesses had been suffering since a bypass diverted traffic around the city in 1994. Also, the park would provide public access to the river for residents who previously had to travel 10 to 20 miles away to neighboring cities to launch boats. “Cloverdale had no public access to the river anywhere,” says Mark Cleveland, planner for the Regional Parks Department. “Everything was on private property.”
The county contracted with Santa Rosa, Calif.-based Green Valley Consulting Engineers to design the park, including a multi-use trail, picnic areas, a pedestrian bridge over a creek and parking lots. By May 2001, the first phase of the park was completed, including landscaping and irrigation, and picnic area and parking lot construction. The second phase, which included construction of a one-mile-long trail and pedestrian bridge, was completed in March 2004.
The multi-use, handicapped-accessible trail is the highlight of the park. Unlike other riverside trails in the county, the Cloverdale River Park trail is paved so visitors can bicycle, skate, walk, ride horses and roll wheelchairs under ancient alder, cottonwood, giant oak and willow trees, through marsh reeds and along the river’s gravel shoreline. The city and county soon will add interpretive maps and informational panels to the trail to explain the Oat Valley Creek watershed and the Russian River. The trail terminates at one end near downtown Cloverdale and connects to area bikeways, and community leaders plan to connect the trail to future developments along the river.
This year, approximately 32,800 people have visited the park and used the trail to view wildlife, such as herons, egrets and eagles, that make their homes in the area. Once restroom facilities and a boat launch are installed, community leaders expect visitation to reach 50,000 annually.
Park construction was funded by a combination of state grants, money from a statewide park bond passed in 2000, and city and county funds. Although the park is part of the Sonoma County Regional Park System, Cloverdale and the county share the park’s maintenance costs. “As funding becomes more and more scarce, it becomes more and more important to look at these cooperative agreements and try to do things jointly,” Cleveland says.