Help Protect Petaluma's Ecotourism


At the end of July, the new Ellis Creek trail will be opened to the public, adding over two miles to an existing trail system in the Petaluma wetlands that includes strolls through Alman Marsh, and around Shollenberger Park. One will be able to walk almost eight miles (roundtrip) starting at the Sheraton Hotel located at the Petaluma Marina. This will only enhance what many (Greenbelt Alliance, S.F. Chronicle, etc.) have already described as a top destination for nature lovers.

The 500-acre contiguous wetlands, left unspoiled, have much to offer - 200 species of birds, 25 species of mammals, reptiles and amphibians, over 100 types of plants, with trails that meander through or are adjacent to a variety of habitats ranging from seasonal ponds, uplands, to salt marshes. At points in the trail one walks alongside the Petaluma River. The headquarters of the Point Reyes Bird Observatory (PRBO) is also located next to Shollenberger. PRBO is world famous for its research efforts and provides educational services to the public on-site. Additionally, the Petaluma Wetlands Alliance (PWA) conducts wetland tours. Its website features hundreds of wildlife photos,

Properly promoted, the wetlands will attract thousands of birders and other eco-tourists to Petaluma. That has been the City of Petaluma and PWA’s goal for several years, awaiting the opening of the Ellis Creek segment of the trail. The success of this effort will greatly depend, however, upon maintaining the purity of the wetlands from harmful development, such as the Dutra asphalt and recycling facility proposed across the river from Shollenberger. Not only would the plant destroy scenic vistas along the Petaluma River but also create excessive noise and pollutants potentially harmful to the park animals, and even human visitors.

Visits from regional and national birders could enliven the local economy, creating jobs as well as producing sales and tax revenues, for birding is one of the most popular hobbies in this country. A 2001 study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service produced amazing numbers. There are 46 million birders who travel to locations like the Petaluma wetlands, annually. They create 32 billion dollars in retail sales, 13 billion in federal and state taxes, and are responsible for over 800,000 jobs! Even the small town of Arcata, California, draws 150,000 visitors a year for its 150 acres of wetlands.

Bob Dyer, Senior Docent, Petaluma Wetlands

Click here to download a PDF of this letter.



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