From the Bottom Up
In one California community, a breakthrough
for fish and folks.
By Lisa Owens Viani
Nestled against the gold- en hills of the wine country an hour’s
drive north of San Francisco, the city of Santa Rosa, California,
is breaking through concrete in—and old ways of thinking about—the
creek that flows through its midst. In an ambitious creek restoration/greenway
project that won an award of excellence from the California Park
and Recreation Society last year, the city has restored a more natural
channel for fish and wildlife, offered recreational and aesthetic
opportunities for residents, and helped reconnect its downtown with
the historic Railroad Square district.
lure people down to the water.
As with many creek restoration projects, this revitalization of
two-thirds of a mile of Santa Rosa Creek was inspired by citizen
activists who, in 1989, concerned that the creek had become a dumping
ground and an eyesore, called on the city to take a second look
at it. The creek’s demise had begun in the 1960s when the
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Soil Conservation Service,
convinced that the creek would flood the downtown, entombed almost
half of the 13-mile-long waterway, which flows west from Mount Hood
into the Russian River, in a wide, concrete, trapezoidal channel.
This act, while theoretically preventing the predicted flood, not
only destroyed the aesthetics of the creek, but also caused big
problems for the native fish population, including the endangered
steelhead trout trying to swim up the creek to spawn.
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