The Petaluma Ring Trail in the General Plan


From: Bruce Hagen

Date:   September  13, 2006



Nutshell Summary: The new General Plan should make provision for the creation of a Petaluma Ring Trail, a series of walking/bicycling trails along and near the Urban Growth Boundary /Urban Separator that form a continuous ring around the City.


What is the Petaluma Ring Trail?

The Petaluma Ring Trail will be a continuous trail around the City. Initially, it would be a mixture of existing, planned, and potential paths and routes. In some places it might be a sidewalk, or even a temporary route along a wide shoulder. Other areas might have gaps, where there is presently no safe place to designate an official trail. Over the life of this General Plan, and possibly beyond, the City would fill in the gaps, striving for the creation of a continuous off-street trail. In some places it might split and rejoin, offering the traveler alternative routes.


Petaluma’s current General Plan incorporates a Bicycle Plan which designates on-street routes (Class 3), along-street bike lanes(Class 2), and off-street paths (Class 1) for pedestrian and bicycle travel. Some of these pathways are within the urban separator along the City’s border, especially on the east side of town.  Within the past few years, the PPBAC has recommended inclusion of trail segments for new development projects, especially along the south and southwest parts of town.


 I have begun to document existing and planned routes in Appendix A (incomplete as of 9/28/05).


The trail construction would vary to meet environmental conditions: in some places, like where it borders the Urban Separator and residential subdivisions in the east, a 10 wide concrete sidewalk makes sense. In the hilly regions on the south and west, a single-track hiking/equestrian dirt trail works best. Wide multi-use paths constructed from quarry fines are an attractive, economical choice for well-traveled level areas, especially in expansive soils and along creeks.


The trail, if thought of as a necklace would have a wide variety jewels strung along the way. Major destinations such as parks, playing fields, nature preserves, and schools would be the big stones. The smaller stones would include benches, trail heads, interpretive kiosks and displays, scenic overlooks, and water fountains. When thought of as the rim of the wheel, it would connect to spoke trails leading toward various destinations within, including schools, shopping, civic, and your neighborhood.



Why have a Petaluma Ring Trail

The benefits of community-supported walking and bicycling are well recognized: physical and mental health, neighborhood cohesiveness, crime reduction, reduced pollution and traffic congestion, even increased tourism. A path encircling the City will be a crown, a keystone, for Petaluma’s system of paths and trails. As oil scarcity increase the value of local vacations, hiking a completed ring trail could become a treasured local tradition (see Appendix B, Bruce Hagen’s Argus Courier column on the Petaluma Rim Trail.)


How do we create the Petaluma Ring Trail?

The new General Plan should:

·         make the creation of the Petaluma Ring Trail, as defined in “What is the Petaluma Ring Trail” above, an explicit goal/objective

·         Establish criteria for evaluating the potential of properties for new trail segments.

·         Require that any proposed public or private development in proximity to the Urban Separator or UGB be evaluated for potential links in the PRT. If they meet the critieria, creation of easements and trails should be required as conditions of approval for the development

·         Direct the City should pursue filling of missing links by allocating General, Redevelopment and Special District funding, and by seeking external funding (County Regional Parks and Open Space District, State Transportation) for purchase of easements and construction of trails on properties that are not proposed for development or otherwise cannot be conditioned for Ring Trail Improvements

·         Guide/direct the City Council, City Manager, and Director of Community Development to provide strong and clear guidance to the Community Development staff to pursue additions to the Ring Trail whenever opportunities arise; while the PPBAC and other volunteer organizations (Petaluma Green Lane, Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, Rotary) have a supportive role to play, they should not have take over from or even work against City staff.




Appendix A

Key to Petaluma Rim Trail Segment Maps


Trail Segment A: Corona to E. Washington


Appendix B

Walk The Petaluma Rim Trail. By Bruce Hagen, from the Petaluma Argus Courier August 6, 2003