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David Yearsley's legacy

It has been several weeks since the passing of David Yearsley, environmentalist. David dedicated himself to supporting the Petaluma River and our wetlands for over a dozen years. I worked most closely with him from 2000-2003 when he chaired the Petaluma Wetlands Park Alliance (now the Petaluma Wetlands Alliance). The PWPA was ultimately responsible for the polishing wetlands and trails system at the Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility, and doubling the size of the Petaluma public wetlands to 500 acres. When he left his post at the PWPA, he wrote an article for our newsletter. Here are abstracts:

"I remember distinctly the thrill of being introduced to the environmental art work of Patricia Johanson at a gathering hosted by Janice Cader-Thompson in the fall of 2000, and the realization that the people of Petaluma could benefit in many ways by the construction of treatment wetlands. It was there that I first met the nucleus of activists who would join forces to form the Petaluma Wetlands Park Alliance …We held public meetings and spoke to community groups. We lobbied the city council both publicly and privately. These efforts paid off on Jan. 7, 2002, when the City Council in a dramatic vote, agreed to include the constructed wetlands as part of the new [Ellis Creek] wastewater treatment plant.

"The condition attached to the council's approval was that the outside funding to purchase the land must be found within a year. It was our good fortune to have Grant Davis of the Bay Institute working on our behalf. With the assistance of county Supervisor Mike Kerns, the Sonoma County Open Space District and the California Coastal Conservancy, $4.2 millions in matching grants had been arranged in just six months. Now the struggle became cutting a deal with the land owners to purchase the property at the appraised value, and what a struggle it was … It was (then-city manager Michael) Bierman who was instrumental in finally crafting a deal to acquire Gray's Ranch. The city changed its construction plans to move the wastewater plant onto the parcel, thereby saving millions of dollars. The deal had appeal, and was approved by a unanimous vote of the new council on Sept. 8, 2003. We had a wetland parks, at last …"

This is just one example of the enduring projects David masterminded. He should be commemorated as a quiet-spoken, but very effective advocate for our river and adjacent wetlands, and I shall miss him.


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