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(Editor?s note: This is one in a series of monthly stories taking a close-up look at neighborhoods in Petaluma.)

As legend has it, once upon a not-so-distant time, turtles apparently lived in Petaluma?s Lynch Creek.

And so, when a subdivision of homes was built adjacent to the creek, the name ?Turtle Creek? was chosen for the neighborhood.

But several residents queried this month say they have never seen turtles in the creek, although a large assembly of other critters ? including deer, foxes, raccoons and skunks ? have turned up in the neighborhood.

?In fact, last fall, we saw seven raccoons rolling down a driveway,? said Ingram Way resident Suzanne Young, laughing.

While ?Turtle Creek? might now be a misnomer, the neighborhood?s street names, primarily bird types, more faithfully reflect its makeup. Hummingbirds, hawks, woodpeckers, buzzards, egrets and all sorts of other birds fly around and hang out in the area.

?We?re bird watchers, so we enjoy it,? said Linda Buffo, who has lived in Turtle Creek with husband Steve for the past five years. ?Many people here are interested in birds.?

Residents customarily rattle off directions that leave visitors feeling that they will be entering a bird community.

?After entering the neighborhood on Turtle Creek Drive, take a right on Sparrow Lane, a left on Linnet Lane and a right on Hawk Drive,? say some residents, who can always choose to inundate visitors with several more bird names if they want to give unnecessarily complicated directions.

Residents and visitors alike have found that birds are only one attractive feature of the neighborhood, which sits on property formerly known as Wild Willow Ranch, purchased in 1905 by the family of current Petaluma resident Peter Matzen, 93. The Turtle Creek subdivision sprang up in the 1990s and has become one of Petaluma?s most desirable areas to live.

?I was born and raised in Petaluma, and have lived all over the area, on the east and west sides. This neighborhood is a particularly bright and cheery place, and is in a great location,? said Onita Pellegrini, the CEO of the Petaluma Chamber of Commerce, who has lived in the neighborhood for the past seven years.

?It reminds me of what the west side of Petaluma must have been like, once upon a time,? said Sally Brasseur, who has lived with her husband, Richard, on Ingram Street since 2001.

?We used to live on the west side, and loved the history there,? Buffo said. ?Steve and I wondered what it would be like to live in a more modern environment, so eventually we decided to move to Turtle Creek. It?s really a wonderful place, and I especially like the walking trails. Each walk gives us a new experience.?

Kids and adults alike love walking on neighborhood paths beside Lynch Creek and crossing its small, scenic bridges.

?Pathways go all around the creek,? said Young, a resident of the neighborhood since 2001. ?This is a very good place to walk and bike.?

Some residents laud the accessibility that the paths provide.

?I can get on the trails, and walk all the way to the Santa Rosa Junior College campus and the (Parkway Plaza) shopping center,? Pellegrini said.

Turtle Creek offers other recreational and leisure options. Its eastern boundary is Prince Park, which contains baseball, softball, soccer and football fields; walking and bicycling paths; and a food concession building.

Also, on Feb. 25 the Petaluma City Council approved plans to create a four-acre Turtle Creek Park, also known as Fox Hollow Park. The four-acre park will cost an estimated $301,000, and feature pedestrian pathways, picnic tables and benches, and include landscaping and shaded areas. The city plans to pay a landscape architectural firm $49,240 of the total to design the park, and use the rest of the money to build it next year.

?I hope that there also will be an area where kids can play, and a community bulletin board. We don?t have a place for community information,? said Marti Overton, who has lived in the neighborhood since 2000.

Although a bulletin board hasn?t been created, over the years residents have done plenty of other things to build cohesiveness and communication, such as having block parties and garage sales, as well as creating a homeowners association, watch group and newsletter.

?And we offered a safety workshop with the Petaluma Fire Department at our home. Other people here do things like that for the whole neighborhood, too,? Buffo said.

This desire to help other neighbors developed a strong camaraderie among the initial residents of the subdivision, and has continued to the present. A snowman also played a pivotal role.

?I think that the one thing that brought us all together was a snowfall. One of the neighbors built a snowman on top of mailboxes, and the kids had a grand time. It was wonderful,? Overton said.

The camaraderie also has instilled a sense of collective pride, vividly displayed in the attractive appearance of the area.

?It?s a lovely, well-maintained neighborhood that is enhanced by a lot of natural plants and landscapes,? Buffo said.

?Before we moved here, we were attracted to the aesthetic flavor of the neighborhood. The landscaping was a big part of it,? resident Mark Hall said, adding that unlike some other new neighborhoods, Turtle Creek looked more established and maintained.

?It has totally lived up to our high expectations,? he added.

The homes, while attractive, occupy an area formerly known for its natural beauty and openness. But Prince Park, Rooster Run Golf Course, the walking paths and Sonoma Mountain help to retain these qualities.

?Because of the way our home is situated, we can look out of our kitchen window and see Sonoma Mountain. This gives us a sense of openness,? Overton said.

Many families also were drawn to the peacefulness of the neighborhood.

?This was a genteel, very quiet place when we moved here, and that hasn?t changed during the past five years,? Buffo said.

But on Halloween, the neighborhood is becoming known as ?D Street East.?

?Kids get bused in to Turtle Creek from outside of the area. There?s a constant flow of kids being dropped off every year. It?s interesting that parents seem to think that this is the place to send their kids,? said Hall, who has lived on Linnet Lane with wife Betsy for the past four years.

Some families were attracted to the variety of homes in the neighborhood.

?We liked the way the houses looked different from one another. This didn?t look like a typical tract,? said Deanna Lusk, who moved to the area from Menlo Park with husband Keith in 1999.

Several residents praised the demographic mix of the neighborhood, in which an estimated 33.3 percent of the people are under 20 years old, 33.5 percent are 20-44 years old and 33.2 percent are over 44 years old. Residents of Hispanic ethnicity now comprise 11.8 percent of the area, while Asians account for 11.2 percent.

?I like the mix of people ? young, working families and retired people, as well as families with children and families with no children,? said Buffo, adding that this variety enriches the neighborhood.

Most residents questioned have few or no criticisms of the neighborhood, although some complained of street traffic sounds and air traffic noise from nearby Petaluma Municipal Airport.

?People sometimes come barreling down the street here. Somebody came through our fence,? said Overton, explaining that the full buildout of the neighborhood has brought more traffic.

?This is a nice, fairly quiet area ? except on weekends, of course, when planes taking off from the airport sometimes are very loud,? said David Thompson, who has lived on Loon Drive for the past three years.

Perhaps the feeling many residents have about the neighborhood is best captured by the description Mark Hall?s wife, Betsy, wrote for a postcard advertisement for a Realtor friend. The postcard was a big hit with residents, some of whom posted it on their refrigerators.

?In the golden state of California, in a smallish, quaint town called Petaluma, there is a special neighborhood of newer homes built on land with great history,? the postcard says. ?It?s a place where neighbors are friendly ? couples walking their dogs stop to talk, and children can be heard laughing and playing in the streets and on the sidewalks.

?Bordered on two sides by beautiful, natural creeks with bridges and bike paths, and a park spanning the entire east end. Nestled in a valley against statuesque mountains, yet close to all the amenities and necessities that make life easier. The streets are lined with trees that produce bright blooms in the springtime, the yards and lawns are looked after with pride. This is a sought-after neighborhood, a place people are proud to call home. This is Turtle Creek.?

(Contact Dan Johnson at dan.johnson@arguscourier.com. Corey Young contributed to this article.)

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