Prince Memorial Greenway
During the 1960's, Santa Rosa's urban creeks were channelized using concrete riprap for flood control. While preventing floods, it destroyed the aesthetics of the creek and habitat for the native steelhead. The creek area also became a place for homeless encampments, drug use and vandalism. The challenge was to transform the downtown section of the creek into a lush greenway and urban design linkage between Santa Rosa's Historic Railroad Square and the Downtown core.
The project started as a dream of a handful of citizens in the late 1980's. The Creek Committee brought hundreds of citizens to the table to share their vision and ideas for the Santa Rosa Creek Master Plan. Out of this came project goals that are still being used today.
The primary goal was to recreate the creek for public use and benefit. Other goals included:
* Creating a more natural creek environment
* Restoring creek habitat to save endangered and threatened species of fish and wildlife
* Creating a bicycle and pedestrian path that links downtown and Railroad Square
* Increasing tourism and revitalizing downtown and Railroad Square
* Maintaining flood control
* Removing toxic materials along the creek
The 0.6-mile creek restoration project stretches from Santa Rosa City Hall to Railroad Square. Late 19th and early 20th century vintage commercial and industrial buildings characterize the area. Using the historic building materials, including stone, cast iron, steel and wood, the creek has been transformed into a series of terraces with landscaping, trails, plazas and public art. The scale of the improvements is intimate, with stone retaining walls, curved stairs and ramps that lead to the water's edge, artistic benches, murals and sculptures.
Native riparian vegetation was planted along the banks creating shade and wildlife habitat. Deep pools along with gravel bars and riffles provide juvenile rearing and adult migration habitat for steelhead.
This was not an easy task. The concrete sides were removed by giant jackhammers and cranes to create a deeper, narrower channel; large boulders and rocks were interspersed with native plants and root wads for the fish.
As the construction progressed, the City found that the banks had been used in the "old days" for a dumping ground for everything from underground tanks of diesel to rubble from the 1906 earthquake. Clean-up of the toxic wastes doubled the cost of the project.
An elementary school adjacent to the Greenway and neighboring residents were excited to realize an enhanced creek and trail system that makes it possible to bike and jog safely from one side of the City to another.
This award-winning project has increased the public's awareness of the entire creek system in Santa Rosa. Walkers, joggers, and bicyclists of every age are all enjoying the pleasant peaceful walkway.
This spring, biologists observed increased numbers of juvenile steelhead trout in the creek and adult steelhead spawning upstream, along with increases in the river otter and other wildlife populations.
Santa Rosa Creek has become a model of urban creek restoration that addresses social as well as environmental and educational goals.
Funding and Partners
Prince Family Trust
Sonoma County Open Space District
State and Federal Agencies, including:
Natural Resouce Conservation Service
Sonoma County Water Agency
California Department of Fish and Game
California Department of Water Resources
Urban Stream Restoration Program
State Department of Parks and Recreation
Army Corps of Engineers