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PD Editorial: Thumbs up, thumbs down

  • Sonoma Land Trust and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials observe an area of San Pablo Bay that will be restored. (The Press Democrat, 2012)

A private plan for square? Why not?

Disparate times call for different measures. And a proposal by a blend of Santa Rosa business owners and other locals to help get the reunification of Old Courthouse Square completed would certainly qualify as different. But this may be an opportunity worth pursuing.

The group, which includes retired contractor Steven Oliver, Santa Rosa native Eric Anderson, local planner and designer Kent Chilcott as well as several downtown business owners, say they could raise $10 million for the reunification project and could break ground by next year. The only apparent caveat is that the group — calling itself “the AD Hoc Committee: Courthouse Square” — wants to be given control of developing the city's plan for the site, and they reserve the right to make “modest adjustments” during the design and development phase.

Representatives of the group plan to make a more formal presentation to the council tonight when it discusses the reunification project. There are plenty of unknowns about what this partnership would entail. But there are also plenty of unknowns about the city's ability to raise the funds to complete the project on its own, particularly without the assistance of redevelopment money. Fortunately, at this point the idea won't cost the city anything more than an open mind. It's worth the investment.

Back to the future for baylands

Tidal wetlands are reappearing along the north shore of San Pablo Bay. The baylands are an important stopover for migratory bird on the Pacific Flyway. Beginning in the 19th century, much of it was diked, drained and converted to hayfields or salt ponds. In recent years, public agencies, conservation groups and sportsmen have worked together to restore the wetlands between the Napa and Petaluma rivers.

A new phase is getting underway near Sears Point. Ducks Unlimited and the Sonoma Land Trust announced a $538,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — about a third of necessary funding for the Sears Point project, which will create habitat for canvasbacks and mallards as well as 22 fish species, including Chinook salmon. It's eventually expected to support clapper rails and salt marsh harvest mice, an endangered species.

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