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Teri Shore

Protecting Urban Wildlands in Petaluma

The West Petaluma Hills rise above the city of Petaluma within walking distance of downtown. I recently walked the user trails that criss-cross this patch of urban open space with naturalist Dr. Lydia Schindler, who lives nearby. The views from up top stretch from historic downtown to Sonoma Mountain and all the way to Mt. St. Helena.

Collaborating with neighbors, landowners and community leaders, Dr. Schindler is seeking to permanently protect 30 acres of natural grassland and woodland habitat from potential development. To do this, they formed the West Petaluma Hills Wildlife Corridor Coalition. “Our desire is to protect this beautiful open space in perpetuity by supporting the conservation of properties in the West Petaluma Hills,” Dr. Schindler explained. Read this news story from the Argus-Courier to learn more.

The parcels of private, undeveloped land are between Western Avenue and the D Street Extension and are central to the West Hills Wildlife Corridor. The lands are important locally and regionally as they are situated nearby other open space lands that are already protected or may be in the future.

Nature lovers, dog walkers, and joggers already use the hills as an unofficial park. But the area is also home to old oaks, open grassland, hundreds of songbirds, and raptors. Bobcat, mountain lions, coyote, fox, deer, and the California Red-Legged Frog also find refuge here. View the latest wildlife observations on INaturalist here.

Some parcels in the heart of the West Petaluma Hills are for sale and if not conserved will most likely be developed. Familiar land names are La Cresta Ridge and Ravine and the Kelly Creek property. Northward, these hills are adjacent to the conserved Paula Lane Preserve established by the Paula Lane Action Network. Towards the west, Helen Putnam Regional Park borders the wildlife corridor.

Dr. Schindler and her team have made impressive progress in a very short time to bring the community together and secure letters of interest from the landowners to conserve the properties. Greenbelt Alliance will be cheering them on and providing support and advice along the way. Once preserved, the West Petaluma Hills will provide a critical linkage for wildlife while protecting a critical urban green for city dwellers and visitors forever.

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