Community teamwork leads to many improvements in Helen Putnam Regional Park
One anonymous donor’s pledge to match a $50,000 fundraiser several years ago turned into $200,000 in improvements recently rolled out at Helen Putnam Regional Park.
The most obvious improvement is the staircase replacing the badly eroded Panorama Trail. That trail, though probably great fun for the mountain bikers and those who wanted a strenuous hike, was an eyesore at the park entrance and a problem of erosion. Now that trail has stairs that will improve both habitat and hydrology in that section of the park.
As part of the construction of the stairs, the connecting trails of upper Panorama and Arroyo Trail were improved. One mile of the Savannah Trail, on the opposite side of the creek from Arroyo Trail, has also been widened and smoothed. These are both great trails for ascending or descending the ridgetop if you don’t want to take the stairs.
Around the pond you will see some changes and improvements too. Cattail Trail is a short trail at the north end of the pond that takes you up to the paved Ridge Trail. A picnic bench there is a perfect stop for the kids. As you hike around the pond, you will see over 400 plantings of grasses, perennials, willows, and shrubs. Soon you will see an interpretive panel at the pond. If you prefer to climb, take a sharp left on the southwestern side of the pond and climb up Yarrow Trail, connecting to Savannah or Panorama.
A trail that sees fewer hikers is the South Loop Trail. This trail has been realigned to improve the hiking. You may encounter some cyclists too. There are some great vistas of Chileno Valley on this trail. Enjoy the view from the bench there. A more popular trail is Filaree, on the northern slope of the park. There was some major renovation of this trail to reroute it from drainage areas that become muddy and eroded when it rains.
The final and much welcomed big project will be a new entrance to the park. The West Wind Trail starts at Windsor Drive and heads up into the park. Another parking lot will be constructed this summer. I am proud to say that I helped build this trail as part of the Trails Council crew. A lot of hard work by many volunteers!
Here is a big thank you to the many people and organizations that improved our park in addition to the Regional Parks crew: the Sonoma County Trails Council; Conservation Corps North Bay; Regional Parks Youth Crew; local schools; Casa Grande Mountain Bike Team; and park volunteers
Come out and enjoy the park improvements. A bonus is that spring is wildflower time. Remember your mask and the social distance that is still required on the trails. Be sure your dog is on a leash in order to protect the wildlife there. Enjoy the outdoors!
Carol Eber is chair of The Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation Board of Directors and lives in Petaluma.