In mid-April, residents of a homeless encampment in Roseland were evicted and many moved to the nearby Joe Rodota Trail, an important bicycle and pedestrian route connecting Sebastopol and Santa Rosa. Soon after, we began hearing and witnessing incidents that compromise the safety and mobility of trail users: campers blocking others from passing, verbal harassment, dogs off leash, trash, used syringes, and human waste. Many cyclists and pedestrians reported that they stopped using the trail due to safety concerns.
Last week, cyclist Bill Petty was assaulted on the trail, with injuries including facial fractures. In response, we circulated a petition asking the Board of Supervisors and the Santa Rosa City Council to take action to make the trail safe for its intended use. 740 individuals signed, with many sharing their experiences of harassment and witnessing of inappropriate behavior.
We presented this petition to the Board and City Council on May 22; that afternoon, the County announced that on May 30 they will close the trail for at least two days while campers relocate and the area is cleaned. Occupants of the encampments have been informed of the upcoming closure, and have been offered services and shelter. Sonoma County Regional Parks, who has jurisdiction over the trail, has posted a map of suggested detours for cyclists to use until the cleanup has concluded.
We are sympathetic to the plight of the homeless and realize that this is not a long-term solution to their needs; however, we are not willing to forfeit our pathways, parks and open spaces as a means to address this much larger problem, nor are we willing to allow cyclists and pedestrians to be harassed or put in harms way.
Many thanks to those who took the time to add their voices to the petition, and to the individuals and organizations working to address the issue of homelessness in our county…and wishes for speedy healing to Mr. Petty!