There is a growing recognition that access to parks and open space is critical to the physical and mental health of all human beings. Exposure to nature has been linked to a host of health benefits, including improved attention span and cardiovascular health, better moods, lower stress and many other health indicators. Yet, though many visitors come to Sonoma County from around the world to enjoy our beautiful natural spaces, many of our community members do not have equitable access to nature themselves.
One in four people living in Sonoma County does not have a park located within a half-mile walking distance of their home. This inequity is disproportionately distributed among lower-income communities. Without access to parks, people have fewer recreational opportunities and increased physical health risks from poor air quality and hotter temperatures due to a lack of grass, trees and ponds to offset the heat retained in buildings and roads in the urban core.
Green spaces can make cities healthier by lowering temperatures, improving air quality, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing opportunities for recreation. Through the acquisition and transfer of land to county and city parks, we are expanding park access in areas that lack nearby open space and facilitating inclusive park-planning processes that meet the needs of all of our communities.
A dedicated coalition of agency and nonprofit partners is working together on the Santa Rosa Southeast Greenway Campaign to acquire land originally slated to become a freeway extension. The goal is to secure the site’s 47 acres and transform it into an urban greenway park threaded with paths for cyclists and pedestrians, and populated with community gardens, pocket parks, public art and space for play, as well as educational opportunities for nearby public schools. The greenway will provide thousands of city residents with access to a park within a 10-minute walk from their homes and eventually link up to Taylor Mountain, Trione-Annadel and Spring Lake parks.
To protect critical wildlife corridors and further develop access to nature for local communities, we are actively working with our partners to safeguard the 700 acres of undeveloped land around the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) for nature and recreation. The land will be transferred to state and county park agencies and we are also producing trail maps in Spanish and English to help the community explore the open space.
"The Sonoma Developmental Center is the jewel in the crown of Sonoma Mountain — a significant part of the watershed and landscape in Sonoma Valley."
Sonoma County 1st District Supervisor
The design of new parks and open space areas heavily favors those with the time and resources to participate in community workshops. We are innovating new ways of engaging previously excluded communities in the process. One example is the development of the Petaluma River Park. Thanks to a generous grant from the Ginnie and Peter Haas Jr. Fund, community members who otherwise would be unable to participate are being provided resources such as child care, translation services and, in some cases, a stipend, to ensure that the new park meets community needs.