A Day At The Park - By Norris (Bob) Dyer

The following is featured in the May issue of the Petaluma Post:

Rue Furch served on the Sonoma County Planning Commission for 16 years and was named Environmentalist of the Year by the Sonoma County Conservation Council in 2005. When the National Geographic Society sought an expert to identify places of interest for nature-lovers, she was an obvious choice to identify sites in our county.

Rue knew about Shollenberger Park and last fall searched for someone to do a web page for the Society’s visitredwoodcoast.com, then under construction. She finally found me, through David Keller, and the website and the page I fashioned went on line in January, thanks to Rue. I expanded the area to include the adjoining Alman Marsh and recently-opened Ellis Creek area.

As I have written before, there are 46 million birders in this country, who create 32 billion dollars in retail sales yearly. I believe the website will attract visitors to our “Petaluma Wetlands." While here, they will not only hike our trails and check out our birds, but also eat, drink and (hopefully) be merry. Petaluma needs this sort of cash infusion right now as we all know.

There are several ways to access this new web page. The full name of the website is "California’s Redwood Coast: Paradise Untamed." On the home page, select "Main Map" for all attractions in the redwood coast. At the right side of this map, hit “Select" to clear out all the check marks, then check “Natural Area” and find the appropriate leaf icon near Petaluma. A shortcut, for us insiders, is just to search under “Petaluma Wetlands” on the Main Map page.

Here is the first part of the text on the Petaluma Wetlands page:

"Less than two miles from downtown Petaluma, California, the Petaluma Wetlands are 500 acres, with trails through or adjacent to a variety of habitats ranging from tidal salt marshes to freshwater marshes. The contiguous wetlands are Alman Marsh, Shollenberger Park and Ellis Creek. To the west a portion of the trail system parallels the Petaluma River and beyond it there are hills clustered with native oaks. To the east lies Sonoma Mountain, once a volcano, millions of years ago.

"200 species of birds have been identified in the wetlands and over 100 plant species. Over 30 species of ducks and geese use the wetlands' food and shelter during the migratory season. Additionally, over 25 species of shorebirds feed in the tidal marshes and around the perimeter of the central seasonal pond at Shollenberger. Immediately across the river from Shollenberger there is a heron/egret colony usually active from April-July. If active, the colony normally has more than 60 nests of Great Egret, Snowy Egret and Great Blue Heron.

"The wetlands provide over seven miles of trails and are used daily by hundreds of people. Individual trails vary in length from 1/3 mile to over 2 miles. They provide a natural experience in what is otherwise an urban setting. Parts of the wetlands are dual purpose. Shollenberger's central pond is used periodically for 'dredge spoils' from the Petaluma River. Ellis Creek opened in mid-2009 as a state-of-the-art water recycling facility and 30 acres serve as polishing wetlands.

"A habitat restoration project is underway removing invasive weeds and introducing native plants. 'Recreational Opportunities' Visitors use the park trails to bird watch, walk dogs, exercise, ride their bikes, eat their lunch or just enjoy a relaxing stroll. Docent-led tours are offered the second Saturday of each month at 9:00 A.M. (Shollenberger entrance) from October-June."

This page has a map that can be expanded to show how to get to the park. I have also added a dozen images. The picture of a Great Egret is alongside the opening text (Figure 1). A recent addition is a map of the wetlands, created by Petaluma Wetlands Docent Ingrid Larnis. It shows all the trails from the Petaluma Sheraton to Ellis Creek, parking areas, and restrooms. Please let your out-of-town friends know about our wonderful wetlands and what they have to offer.


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