Walking on the Flat in Rohnert Park

Spring is not what one expected this year. It seems we’ve been dodging storms since December to get in a good walk.

But memory is short. I’d just walked around Spring Lake in sunshine on Saturday with a friend and her dog. (A fine dog walking place it is. I just haven’t had time to write about it. We’ll get there.)

Meanwhile Sunday morning looked foreboding and the forecast was worse. We went out in layers and raingear.

Destination Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park. Butterfly Garden.

This area was essentially empty of trees and bushes when Sonoma State was founded as a school in 1960. But a creek, Copeland Creek, ran near the north side of campus and various restorations of the creek and development of native plant and butterfly gardens near it have continued for years. Other trees were planted throughout the campus.

The Butterfly Garden was and is supported by the Santa Rosa Garden Club. While not much is in bloom right now it should be soon. The paths are soft woodchips with some elevation changes. Many plants are labeled (checkerbloom, black oak, island alumroot) and some signs need to be redone. The area has three kinds of butterfly environments – woodland, meadow and riparian. And a lush nursery.

With a light drizzle we weren’t about to sit and rest, but when Mike used to go to school at SSU he would come to the Butterfly Garden to relax.

We continued on the wide dirt and gravel road. After passing big lawns and two cement ‘lakes’ the road became paved by Copeland Creek.

After passing the Art Building, the ETC building (I’ll cover it later), and some student housing, the path narrows as it passes the athletic fields of Rancho Cotate High School. The solid wall of willows and blackberries blocked any view of the creek.

We crossed Snyder Lane, almost a mile from where we started and looked down the creek. The creek and paved paths are a straight shot through Rohnert Park. All the creeks that go through Rohnert Park are carved arrow-like for flood control. When the city started, development was about homes and not about natural creeks. Deciding how natural to let the creeks be is constantly under discussion.

Coming back we peeked at some of the access points to the Nature Trail, but they looked a little soggy.

We did take a detour around the ETC (Environmental Technology Center) a very ‘green’ building. There is a Slow Food community garden and other native plant areas to the garden with a large potting shed. To enjoy the lush garden we needed a sunnier day closer to summer. Near the creek there are several restoration plantings.

Moving on, we entered the nature trail (narrow and woodchip thick) by the creek, as the rain was getting heavier and we needed more shelter. If the sun were shining we would have stopped and sat in some Adirondack chairs, but we hurried on. Under the cover of redwoods, Mike pointed out mugwort, thimbleberry and spice bush. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I said as I worked my way through the wooded path.

See you on the trail!

Lynn Millar

Photos by Mike Millar

meanwhile back to walking…

Don’t forget the wildflowers. There are here and coming on strong. Just drive along River Road, Old Redwood Highway, Petaluma Hill Blvd, or Highway 12 on either side of Santa Rosa and you’ll be dazzled.

Directions to the Butterfly Garden: From Petaluma Hill Rd, turn onto Laurel Drive (between Rohnert Park Expressway and East Cotati Ave.) go to Parking Lot G or H on the right. Parking fee is $2.50 all day, every day, every hour.

Other Points of Interest: Art Center sometimes has exhibits in the Art building near one of the cement ‘lakes’.  The Jean and Charles Schulz Information Center was completed in 2000. Green Music Center is across the creek from the main campus, where I hope the sound of music justifies the grim exterior.

Bathroom: Geez, I forgot to find out. On Sunday, so many buildings are closed. Rest of the time, the Student Union mid-campus is the best bet.

Food and Coffee: In the shopping center across from SSU off of E. Cotati Ave., S*bucks had a disgustingly long line in the drive-through. Shangri-La a Himalayan restaurant was closed on Sundays. The rest of the time, open for lunch and dinner and is good.

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