Exploring the Historic Headwaters of the Laguna de Santa Rosa

Walk with Jenny Blaker, Michael Knappman, Keenan Foster, and Kate Symonds
Sunday, October 1, 2017, 10:00am-2:00pm
Meeting in Cotati (directions and details sent upon registration)
$25. Pre-registration required.
This walk is most suitable for adults (slow with lots of stops).

Explore the upper reach of the Laguna de Santa Rosa from downtown Cotati to the historic “headwaters” on a gentle, level, (but not wheelchair accessible) 3-mile loop walk. A number of local experts will share their knowledge and insights of the natural and cultural history of the area. This leisurely amble will include highlights about the Ross Street vernal pools; Cotati Creek Critters restoration and education work; Rohnert Park’s Lydia Commons Community Garden (where we’ll stop for a picnic lunch); and the surprising historic headwaters of the Laguna de Santa Rosa. Jenny Blaker and Michael Knappman will lead the loop walk from downtown Cotati to the historic headwaters of the Laguna and back, along with Laguna Foundation staff and Guides.

Jenny Blaker co-founded Cotati Creek Critters habitat restoration project in 1998, and was Outreach Coordinator from 2006-2012, when thousands of volunteers planted and maintained native trees, shrubs and understory plants alongside the Laguna de Santa Rosa channel in Cotati.

Keenan Foster is Principal Environmental Specialist in the Sonoma County Water Agency’s Environmental Resources Group supporting the Stream Maintenance Program.

Michael Knappman has been on the Lydia Commons Community Garden organizing committee since its inception in 2009. He has been active as a Master Gardener, helping promote community gardens and school gardens in Sonoma County. He has been walking the Laguna channel in his neighborhood for the past 25 years and has recently been organizing nature walks along the Laguna in Cotati for the students at University Elementary School.

Kate Symonds is a biologist with 30 years of experience, including 20 years with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, specializing in habitat restoration and native plants for the last 12 years (recently retired). She now volunteers with various organizations on habitat restoration projects and is a docent naturalist at Sonoma State University’s Fairfield Osborne Preserve.

For more Laguna Foundation walks, see http://www.lagunafoundation.org/laguna_walks_classes.shtml.

Owl Rescue!

by Lindee Reese

My dog Lucy and I were walking from our property on Eucalyptus Avenue to the Lydia Community Gardens Park at the end of Willow Avenue. As we walked near John Fomasi’s farm on Willow, Lucy, sniffing along the edge of the ditch, suddenly jumped back to the road. I went to the ditch to investigate and heard a loud clicking sound. At first all I could see was high grass in the ditch, but a closer look revealed a fledgling owl!

I usually leave my phone at home on walks but I happened to have it that day and called Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue. They told us to stay there, that someone would be there shortly. We had the company of two young girls from the neighborhood as well as a neighbor and her two little dogs.

It seemed like a long, precarious wait, fearing the owl would hide from us or otherwise be in danger, but Caitlin arrived within 15 minutes. An amazing response!
She told us it was a Great Horned owl that had probably fallen from one of the towering trees on John’s property and was too young to fly back to its nest. She deftly, gently, picked it up and placed it in a box for transport it back to SCWR.

The next day, the Raptor Program director, Dona Asti, called to tell me the owl was in good condition and would be released near its nest within a few days. My spouse and I were window shopping in Petaluma a few days later when Nathan from SCWR called to tell me that he would be bringing the owl back to release it near where it had fallen and asked if I wanted to witness it. Of course!

We rushed home, got Lucy and walked to Willow Avenue. When we looked up in the trees, there were two Great Horned owls, an adult and another fledgling, looking down on us – in broad daylight! None of us had ever seen an owl in the wild except at dawn, dusk or in the dead of night. Did they somehow know the fallen fledgling was returning?

Nathan of SCWR arrived with the owl and gently held him while we looked on from a respectful distance. He spotted its nest and searched for a nearby tree with a branch that was low enough to hoist it on to. He told us it was just a few days from being able to fly, but that it could branch-hop and its parents would still feed it whether it was in the nest or not.


Release! How fortunate we are that these beautiful, wild creatures live within our midst.

Those eyes – the epitome of wild!
Thank you to Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue for recognizing that, and for their dedication to keeping it that way, in our very special little corner of the world.

March 5: Discover the Historic Headwaters of the Laguna de Santa Rosa

Walk with Jenny Blaker, Michael Knappman, Kate Symonds, and Judith Newton
Saturday, March 5, 10:00am-2:00pm
Meeting in Cotati (directions and details sent upon registration)
$25. Pre-registration required (see below).

http://www.lagunafoundation.org/laguna_walks_classes.shtml

HeadwatersWalkExplore the upper reach of the Laguna de Santa Rosa from downtown Cotati to the historic “headwaters” on a gentle, level, (but not wheelchair accessible) 3-mile loop walk. A number of local experts will share their knowledge and insights of the natural and cultural history of the area. This leisurely amble will include highlights about the Ross Street vernal pools; Cotati Creek Critters restoration and education work; Cotati’s water-saving permaculture “Pocket Park;” Rohnert Park’s Lydia Commons Community Garden (where we’ll stop for a picnic lunch); and the surprising historic headwaters of the Laguna de Santa Rosa. Jenny Blaker, co-founder of Cotati Creek Critters, and Michael Knappman, of the Lydia Commons Community garden organizing committee, will lead the loop walk from downtown Cotati to the historic headwaters of the Laguna and back. Kate Symonds will join us briefly in the beginning of the walk, and a volunteer with Daily Acts, Judith Newton, will give us a tour of Pocket Park. This walk is most suitable for adults (slow with lots of stops).

Jenny Blaker co-founded Cotati Creek Critters in 1998 and was Outreach Coordinator for their grant-funded habitat restoration project, which involved thousands of volunteers planting and maintaining native plants alongside the Laguna de Santa Rosa channel in Cotati from 2006-2012. Jenny lives along the Laguna in Cotati and has an MA in Conservation Psychology from SSU, which was based on the Cotati Creek Critters project. Michael Knappman has been on the Lydia Commons Community Garden organizing committee since its inception in 2009. He has been active as a Master Gardener, helping promote community gardens and school gardens in Sonoma County. He has been walking the Laguna channel in his neighborhood for the past 25 years. Kate Symonds is a biologist with 30 years of experience, including 20 years with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (recently retired), in which the last 12 years she specialized in habitat restoration and native plants. She now volunteers as the Invasive Plants Chair of the California Native Plant Society Milo Baker Chapter and as a docent at Fairfield Osborne Preserve. Kate lives in Cotati. Judith Newton started Transition Cotati and is a long-time volunteer with Daily Acts, having helped develop Pocket Park since its inception. She is a founding member of FrogSong Cohousing in Cotati.

Celebration of Fomasi birthday

June, 2014

Farmer John Fomasi has property that borders Lydia Commons Park in Rohnert Park. From the Lydia Commons community garden a short trail leads to the road to the Fomasi house on the outskirts of Cotati. John Fomasi raised all four of his children there, while driving a truck with dairy supplies to dairy farms for J&J Feed Company. He has lived there with his wife of 70 years, Katie, for 60 years.

Fomasi-birthday-2014

Each year on his birthday since his 90th, neighbors and friends and his family come together to celebrate his day. There were about 65 or more people this year for his 93rd celebration!

Neighbors have befriended the steer that he raises, and have becomes friends with him by chatting over the years as they pass by while he is doing his chores. He still does a lot of the maintenance work on his property, although climbing trees is no longer “allowed.”

He now has 7 great-grandchildren, most of whom attended this year, along with 9 grandchildren. He has many interesting tales to tell of years gone by, when many Italians migrated to California to take up dairy farming and hire out to milk cows. Many of them lived along a stretch of Lakeville Highway. Both Katie and John’s parents were born in the small town of Garzeno, Italy. Katie and John were born here, but did not know each other well until John turned 19 and they met at a carnival in Marin County. They fell immediately in love, but John had just been drafted into the US Army, and he would not get married until he was safely back. As soon as he made it back from Europe, they married. About 10 years later, they moved to this property.

After retiring from J&J Feeds, John helped repair the fences on the large dairy ranches, as cows always lean against them and knock down the posts. He did this for 20 more years! He still keeps the fences on his seven acres in perfect shape!

He is a wealth of information about the “old days” in early Cotati, and loves to share his stories.

John, Katie Fomasi represent old, rural Cotati

April 18, 2014

Slip-sliding along from unnamed pastures, farms and chicken houses to streets and upscale homes now in quiet collision with their predecessors, that chunk of maybe Cotati or maybe unincorporated county, lying south of where Lancaster Avenue ends and east of Old Redwood Highway, is probably terra incognito to most Cotatians. Even more so to Rohnert Park residents.

Go east on Fern and Eucalyptus avenues past the newer homes and you’ll slip past the dividing line into neatly trimmed pastures, older farm homes, sturdy mature trees, cows and chickens, crows and vultures.

The contrast is readily visible. It deserves a history of its own before the new inevitably chews up the old.

John and Katie Fomasi have lived on a seven-acre farmstead in the middle of the old section for the last 60 years. John will be celebrating his 93rd birthday in a month or so and Katie’s 89 years old. They have four children ranging in age from 70 on down to the 30’s, Marlene, Janice, Carol and Raymond. The refrigerator in the Fomasi house’s kitchen is filled with photos of them plus their nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. You can bet when there’s a family reunion (they all live in neighboring towns), the Fomasi farm is alive with juveniles.

Continue reading at The Community Voice – John, Katie Fomasi represent old, rural Cotati.

The surprising headwaters of the Laguna de Santa Rosa

October 5, 2012

Last Saturday, the Laguna Foundation and Cotati Creek Critters sponsored a public walk through Cotati and Rohnert Park to the historic headwaters of the Laguna de Santa Rosa. The Laguna is the second-largest freshwater wetland in coastal Northern California and stretches from Cotati to its confluence with the Russian River just north of Forestville. In 2011, it was recognized as a Wetland of International Significance.

The group, which included several Laguna Foundation docents, guides and staff members, met in downtown Cotati. Jenny Blaker, of Cotati Creek Critters, pointed out a few features of historical and cultural significance, from the statue of Chief Kotate to the six-sided hub with the named streets (an historical landmark), the statue of accordion player Jim Boggio in La Plaza Park, and Athena, the art project that is a result of a collaboration between Sonoma State’s Art Department and the City of Cotati. From there to Cotati Creek, past the Frogsong Cohousing Community, then along the Laguna channel toward Cotati’s Pocket Park.

Once irrigated lawn, this small park is now bursting with edible landscaping and colorful native plants, thanks to a collaboration between the City of Cotati and Daily Acts. It’s a living demonstration of how residents can save water by replacing lawns with edible landscapes as part of the city’s “Cash for Grass” water conservation program. Then it’s on past the Cotati Creek Critters headquarters at Cotati City well lot No. 2 to Ladybug Park in Rohnert Park. From the park, the pathway follows southward and eventually crosses Myrtle Avenue and brings one to ”Lydia Commons” at the south end of Lydia Court. This is the historic site of the Laguna headwaters area. The original course of the Laguna ran from the south end of this mini- park northward along the channel alongside the farm that borders the park.

Continue reading at The Community Voice – The surprising headwaters of Laguna de Santa Rosa.

The changing landscape of the Laguna in Cotati since 1953

September 1, 2011

When I came to Cotati in 1996, I was curious about the large ditch behind our house, and soon learned it was actually near the beginning of the Laguna: the largest tributary to the Russian River, the largest freshwater wetlands complex on the northern California coast, and an important wildlife area.

I was puzzled by maps that showed the “Laguna de Santa Rosa Flood Control Channel,” dead straight with angled corners; not at all natural-looking. Was it ever a natural creek, or was it an entirely engineered channel, and when and why was it straightened, and cut into its “trapezoidal” shape?

My curiosity and interest led me to a class on “Watershed Ecology & Restoration” at Santa Rosa Junior College in 2003. Wade Belew, now Stewardship Coordinator of Cotati Creek Critters, was there too, also because of his interest in this section of the Laguna.

Continue reading at The Community Voice – Archives.

The making of the Laguna de Santa Rosa

May 5, 2011

Like all landscapes, the Laguna de Santa Rosa is the sum of many natural events. Long ago, deep-seated forces of sub-duction laid the foundation of coastal California. Tectonic forces shoved the eastern Pacific tectonic plate, formed at a volcanic ridge in the early Pacific Ocean, beneath continental rocks of the overriding North American plate. (Recall that sub-duction has caused the world’s largest recorded earthquakes, including the recent Sendai, Japan quake.)

Some 30 million years ago, the East Pacific plate’s mid-Pacific ridge began to disappear beneath North America. Starting from what is now northern Mexico and progressing northward, the San Andreas “transform fault” gradually replaced the sub-duction zone.

Now 810 miles long, the San Andreas Fault currently ends abruptly at Cape Mendocino. To the north, a small remnant of the East Pacific plate still dives into a sub-duction zone beneath North America, creating Mt. Lassen, Mt. Shasta, and the Cascades volcanoes of Oregon and Washington. Eventually, that plate and its ridge will disappear beneath North America, extending the San Andreas Fault to the Aleutian Islands.

Continue reading at The Community Voice – Archives.

The headwaters of the Laguna in 1823

March 10, 2011

On his quest to found a mission north of San Rafael, Father Jose Altimira wrote in his journal: “We followed the arroyo (creek) which, according to the Indians and our men who have seen it, carries the most water. But all we found was a small pond. Out on the plain, this arroyo dries up to nothing.”

Tired and thirsty, the party continued south for several more hours, more or less following present-day Petaluma Hill Road. It was after dark before they reached a small spring near Petaluma with enough water to supply them and their horses. The arroyo, which dried “up to nothing,” was probably Crane or Copeland Creek. It was July 2, 1823.

Had he ventured just two miles west, Altimira would have discovered a 20-acre lake a stone’s throw from the Hub in modern Cotati. As the only summer water in the area, it likely resembled a waterhole in the Serengeti, drawing in lots of animals.

The largest would have been the grizzly bear, which stood 10 feet tall on its hind legs and could weigh over a thousand pounds. Tule elk would have congregated here too, in herds numbering into the hundreds. Adult males had huge antlers and weighed 600 pounds. Pronghorn were smaller, but also roamed in impressive herds. They escaped predators using speed and endurance, able to run 10 miles in 15 minutes.

In those days, the Laguna headwaters were a remarkably dynamic landscape. Season to season and year to year, dramatic changes were in motion. Had Altimira visited six months later, he might have complained about mud rather than thirst. Arroyos swollen with winter rains would have made travel difficult. On the flats, these creeks divided into a wandering network of swales and channels. A big storm or a fallen tree could easily change their course. Copeland Creek was especially unpredictable. Being right on the watershed boundary, it might flow into the Petaluma River one winter, and into the Russian River the next.

Continue reading at The Community Voice – The headwaters of the Laguna in 1823.

A sense of place

December 3, 2009

Our neighbor, Rohnert Park, is considering a development on the old Agilent site, a sprawling 200 acre former business campus that was set down amidst the hay fields 25 years ago originally as Hewlett-Packard. I remember feeling alarmed and powerless when it was being built near our place. The floodgates had been opened, our idyllic property, 5 minutes from town but surrounded by grasslands and open space was doomed it seemed. Nothing much came of it then. A high-tech campus is a pretty quiet one and the empty buildings that remained after Agilent left proved to be sentinels that kept Rohnert Park’s hunger for expansion at bay. Until now.

Continue reading…