It took almost three decades to protect the top of Fitch Mountain from development and have it officially dedicated as an open space and reserve. It was complicated and time consuming, involving many hours of hard work by individual volunteers and staff members from many organizations.
From the outset, it was intended that the park be open to all types of non-motorized, active use, including mountain bikes.
A handful of local Healdsburg residents have been riding the mountain for over 40 years, coexisting with hikers, dog walkers and nature lovers without any reported incidents.
At the Villa Chanticleer, during the celebration and public announcement regarding the formation of the park and its formal hand over to LandPaths, it was publically stated that bikers would be able to continue to ride the mountain after the formal opening.
When the real work of turning the open space into a park began, the City of Healdsburg employed a consulting company, Prunuske Chatham Inc. of Sebastopol, to generate the plan. Public input was solicited as part of that process.
However, when the draft plan was published, it included an explicit recommendation that mountain bikes should be excluded. It is not an exaggeration to say this came as a shock to those that knew the history, attended the Villa Chanticleer celebration, and donated money to the Fitch Mountain Fund.
About twenty local riders attended the first public comment meeting after the draft plan was published to express their disappointment and urge the City to reconsider.
Local riders and representatives from the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, Redwood Empire Mountain Bike Alliance (REMBA) and the Sonoma County Trails Council (SCTC) met with the City and representatives from the Fitch Mountain Association to discuss the concerns and ways that they could be addressed. As a result of those fruitful and collaborative discussions, a revised plan was formulated which reinstated mountain biking as an allowed activity!
Also, with the assistance of SCBC, REMBA and SCTC, a set of Draft Trail Use Policies were developed and unanimously approved by the Healdsburg Parks and Recreation Commission on September 13. The Final Use Policies are expected to go before the City Council in October. The park is scheduled to open later this year.
SCBC would like to thank the City and all stakeholders involved for a very successful public process and outcome. The mountain biking community, the City, the Fitch Mountain Association and others are committed to continued collaboration on trail education and stewardship activities to help ensure responsible park stewardship and a great user experience by all.