How incredible would it be to explore Sonoma Valley and its hundreds of wineries without spending a dime on gas or expensive tours? Apparently it would be pretty incredible, judging by a recent state-funded grant to develop the Sonoma Valley Bike Trail, which will connect the regions wineries and parks. The $191,000 Community-Based Transportation Grant was awarded in September by the California Department of Transportation (Cal Trans) to Sonoma Regional Parks, which is tasked with conducting a feasibility study of the trail.
Community-Based Transportation Grants (CBTG’s) are difficult to obtain, and are typically given out to less than eleven organizations and agencies in California each year. The purpose of the CBTG is to assist municipalities and special districts in developing multi-modal transportation networks to improve quality of life in urban and rural communities. But, as opposed to financing the actual engineering of such projects, CBTG’s fund initial studies, plans, public workshops, and stakeholder outreach programs. The grant thus acts as a catalyst for participatory planning, a grassroots process that will help leverage support for regional sustainability and smart growth after the grant has expired.
Originally conceived in the 2010 Countywide Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, the Sonoma Valley Trail is envisioned as a thirteen-mile bikeway connecting the cities of Santa Rosa and Sonoma. The trail’s Class I status will insulate users from State Highway 12, and provide connections between the valley’s small towns, state and regional parks, and a plethora of wineries. Upon terminating just north of Sonoma, the trail will link up with the existing city bikeways, which in turn are planned to dovetail with the proposed Sonoma section of the San Francisco Bay Trail south of the city.
A project of this scale is extremely ambitious. However, the presence of two important factors has led planners, engineers, and bicycle advocates to state that the process might be less painful than expected:
Public Right-Of-Way (ROW): There is an existing ROW that negates the acquisition of easements for trail construction on private land; and
Soil Composition: The soil types buffering Highway 12 are stable enough to reduce the need for synthetic pavement material.
Despite these fortuitous gains, the Sonoma Valley Trail is a long way out as far as construction is concerned. Little is known about the extent of the feasibility study, and public review meetings have yet to be announced. Nonetheless, Sonoma Regional Parks is more than capable to handle this project; they have proved their worth through the completion of numerous trails, parks, and greenways, and will soon put their stamp on the Sonoma Valley Trail.
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Credits: Images by Nick Danty. Data linked to sources.