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May 29, 2017
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The annual Avenue of Flags May 29 at RP Community Center SSU commencement; one for the history books Problem reaching AT&T last weekend? During Rohnert Park City Council meeting protestors unexpectedly take center stage Vehicle pursuit ends with arrest of 14-year-old Ex RP public safety officer pleads no contest to sex offenses Rancho 2017 top 20 Great turnout for RPPSOA pancake breakfast to help Project Grad Gabriella stole the show Town Hall meeting Sheriff's office releases details on SSU officer involved shooting A true celebration of ‘Cinco de Mayo’ Project Grad help in full swing Richard Crane Elementary School Suspect arrested after evading a Cotati Peace Officer Emiri Nomura awarded scholarship Shopping carts ran amok in Cotati last Saturday Ricardo Oliva receives ‘Coach of the year’ for the Northern District Sonoma State University equestrians jump with joy on their way to Kentucky Double Decker Lanes hosts the QubicaAMF Boys and Girl Club employee arrested for child endangerment Armed suspect arrested after resistance RP girl accosted while walking to school And they're off. . . Saddle Up and Ride Community quickly rallies for Project Grad Cotati opposes SB 618 Rohnert Park City Council to host Town Hall meeting on May 3 Graton Tribe makes good on payments Auto burglar arrested by Cotati Police A bit of Uganda A mission to help RP to replace old trees Engineering with Legos at the Ray Miller Community room Bunkers at Foxtail set for repairs RP man arrested for attempted murder CRPUSD OKs two contracts Credo gets used to new digs at SMV Golf Course Drive Crossing concerns may delay SMART train ‘Quiet Zones’ Man busted for DUI after crashing into tree in RP New hands bring subtle changes to Sharing of the Green fundraiser A traditional dance of Japan Shameful time in history RP rejects new self-storage facilities Survey Says: Rohnert Park Residents Love City, but not Traffic Council amends UDSP Body of missing woman found RAFD names part-time fire chief KRCB garners huge windfall from FCC auction Missing Penngrove woman's body found in Marin County Bunfest was hopping with bunny lovers Nonn expected to sue CRPUSD Credo crew marches to new home Cotati delays vote on Valparaiso The Voice enters into 25th year Cotati-reviews midyear budget Two RP Parks getting upgrades A new look for SSU gym RP man reported missing Padre Town Center changes hands Sonoma County to take a look at immigration issue Bomb scare closes RCHS Local Tech High student chosen for Scholars program RP to conduct survey Man arrested after high-speed chase through 3 cities RP makes changes to city code for ADUs Man gets 11 years in prison for RP knife attack Man who led chase into SF caught Treasurer for Rancho Cotate High Project Grad Arrested for Embezzlement A crab feast at Community Center Taking a pie in her grill RP man busted for possession of meth Cotati OKs water, sewer rate study RP votes to regulate vaping CRPUSD schools now a safe haven for immigrant students RP adds seven to public safety Cotati votes to host shopping cart race Man arrested for attempted murder Defibrillators proving to be invaluable assets Artists ready for art show at library Reilani Peleti Corrections Suspected explosive device at RCHS Seventh-graders in local schools to be taught CPR Voice issues apology to school board, superintendent RP man arrested on drug possession charges

The changing landscape of the Laguna in Cotati since 1953

By:
September 1, 2011

When I came to Cotati in 1996, I was curious about the large ditch behind our house, and soon learned it was actually near the beginning of the Laguna: the largest tributary to the Russian River, the largest freshwater wetlands complex on the northern California coast, and an important wildlife area.

I was puzzled by maps that showed the “Laguna de Santa Rosa Flood Control Channel,” dead straight with angled corners; not at all natural-looking. Was it ever a natural creek, or was it an entirely engineered channel, and when and why was it straightened, and cut into its “trapezoidal” shape?

My curiosity and interest led me to a class on “Watershed Ecology & Restoration” at Santa Rosa Junior College in 2003. Wade Belew, now Stewardship Coordinator of Cotati Creek Critters, was there too, also because of his interest in this section of the Laguna.

In 2005, I took a fascinating class in Historical Geography at Sonoma State University as part of a Master’s program, “Action for a Viable Future.” We were asked to write a paper on the history of a place, as far back as we could go in time, to the present day.

I learned about the Coast Miwoks who have lived here for thousands of years, and about the changes over time as land was drained to make way for roads, the railway, agriculture, housing and urban development.

In 2011, I met Arthur Dawson of the Sonoma Ecology Center, who was researching the historical ecology of the southern Laguna watershed, and thanks to him, I was privileged to interview Farmer John, who has lived in Cotati since 1953, and who has recently celebrated his 90th birthday.

Photos from 1953 show Rohnert Park under construction, and the natural creek (the Laguna) being ditched and put into culverts. The person Farmer John bought his house from talked about salmon coming upstream all that way from the Pacific Ocean to the south of Cotati! The creek then was full of willows, cattails, and tules.

Recently, other people have told me that in the 60s and 70s, there was enough water in the creek for kids to swim and even to jump off a rope into the water. They saw turtles and crawdads all the time and even caught trout.

Walter Earle, owner of Mostly Natives plant nursery in Tomales, told me that in the late 70s, the City sprayed weeds alongside the channel with herbicides, and concerned residents formed a committee to explore less toxic approaches.

Sky Hoyt, the owner of Windmill Nursery in Cotati, submitted a bid to mow as many of the roadsides and paths as possible - and hired me to operate his equipment.

One of the areas we mowed was the path along the Laguna near downtown. Mostly, I mowed the waist high grasses while leaving the coyote brush and other native vegetation. We mowed the grasses all the way down into the channel, where it became boggy.

By 1996, the grass on the banks was mowed by City contractors, while thick vegetation grew in the channel itself, thriving in the water and sunlight. In 2005, Cotati Creek Critters received a grant from the California Department of Water Resources and, with the support of the City and Sonoma County Water Agency, thousands of volunteers planted 2,000 native trees and shrubs along a one mile section of the Laguna channel, to create a canopy of trees, to help shade the vegetation out of the channel, to keep water cool, and to provide habitat for birds and other creatures.

Heather Picard, owner of Equinox Landscape Construction, recently wrote: “In the eight years that I’ve lived in Cotati, I have seen the most amazing transformation occur along the Laguna channel. I used to go for regular runs and walks down a barren path between the bridge near E. Cotati Blvd. and Ladybug Park.

It was dry and blindingly hot in the summer with no shade and little to look at. After the rains, only the occasional pair of mallards floating down the creek brightened up the scenery. It felt sad and neglected, something I tolerated to get myself out to the country roads for some scenery. Now when I run down that path, I wish that it would never end. It is a lush green jungle all year round. I love listening to the cacophony of birds and looking for critters in the native plants and trees. And every time I go out there, I feel grateful to Cotati Creek Critters for taking on the task of restoring beauty and habitat to our sweet creek.

They have literally brought new life to Cotati by building soil, cultivating plants, cleaning the water and growing our community through education and volunteerism.”

Jenny Blaker is outreach coordinator of Cotati Creek Critters. This fall, Cotati Creek Critters plans to expand its work downstream to a new area, planting 350 new trees and shrubs alongside the Laguna channel from Gravenstein Way to Commerce Blvd. See www.CotatiCreekCritters.info for further information. Blaker welcomes any opportunity to learn more about the history of Cotati’s creeks through interviews, photographs, maps, documents, etc. Please e-mail jenny@creeks.cotati.info.