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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Santa Rosa Snippets - December 2011

Hi Everyone!  I hope that you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and were able to spend it will family, friends and neighbors.  Oh!  Did I say neighbors?  Imagine that. I guess by now you all know that I can’t write a Santa Rosa Snippet without mentioning neighbors and neighborhoods. 

When I think about neighbors and neighborhoods, I think pretty small.   I think about picking up the mail for my neighbor when she goes on vacation or rallying the troops to clean up our local park.  I think of “my” neighborhood as people living within a half of mile from me.

But not everyone thinks like I do.  Take the Neighborhood Association of Bennett Valley.  (  About three years ago, it formed a subcommittee to look at the stretch of open space that links Spring Lake to Highway 12 at Farmer’s Lane.  From this small committee, they went on to form the Southeast Greenway Campaign ( in hopes of developing a vital urban greenway to link Spring Lake, Howarth and Annadel Parks with downtown Santa Rosa. 

And their vision doesn’t stop there. They see this piece of land as the best and last chance to connect park trails on the eastern side of Santa Rosa with trails that pass through the center of the city and continue on to the Russian River at Forestville, a distance of more than 26 miles!

How to get from here to there
So how does a group of neighbors with a fabulous vision turn it into reality?  First, let me start by saying that the Southeast Greenway Campaign is a work in progress.  There is no guarantee what the final results will be.  But I do think that all of us who are trying to bring about positive change in our neighborhoods can learn something from what the Southeast Greenway Campaign has done so far.

I spoke with Thea Hensel, co-chair of the campaign along with Linda Proulx, and asked what words of wisdom they can share. “Start slow, be patient and have a clear message.” 

The Greenway Campaign has about 20 active committee members.  So far they’ve organized more than 30 house meetings, knocked on every single person’s door who lives next to the Greenway, and raised more than $30,000.  They’ve gotten help from such diverse groups as UC Berkeley’s Urban Design Studio, the American Institute of Architects, LandPaths and the Leadership Institute for Ecology and the Economy.  The Campaign also has a diverse group of advisors including a botanist, a civil engineer and a cyclist who are all trying to build broad-based community support.

So where are the bumps along the road?
Thea stressed that while the Campaign is going in the right direction, she certainly doesn’t want to make it sounds like it isn’t challenging at times.  One of the biggest constraints is that the Campaign members are all volunteers and no one has enough time to contribute as much as they would like.  They’d like to hire staff, of course, but right now the money isn’t there.

Another challenge has been outreach.  The Campaign has tried to get all groups living in the area to be involved in the project but she doesn’t feel that they’ve been successful  enough bringing in families with young children and members of the business and Latino communities.

Lessons Learned
Talking about the Southeast Greenway Campaigns sounds a lot like I do when I’m talking about the Neighbors Summit or talking about trying to help organize my little neighborhood.  If we just had more – more time, more money, and more volunteers – we could do so much more.  That may be true.  But I think that we need to focus on what we’ve accomplished.  Not only have we gotten closer to our vision – whether it be connecting park trails from the east side of Santa Rosa all the way out to Forestville or helping prepare neighbors on one street in the event of an earthquake – we’ve become much more involved and connected in our community.  That, in itself, is a huge success!

P.S.  If you want to learn more about the Southeast Greenway Campaign, please visit their website at  Their next community meeting will be December 3rd at the Glaser Center.