Thursday, January 25, 2007

Guerneville River Park: Phase I almost done

Yours truly, Russian River Rattina, takes a walk through the newly-constructed Guerneville River Park with three kids, two dads, a talented troubador with a guitar, & her camera. You can click on the picture or text link above to view my photo album with pictures I took of the park. If you don't want to leave this page, right-click on the link & select the "New Window" or "New Tab" option from the list.

I am delighted to report that even in the embryonic form of the final stages of Phase I, the park offers lan enjoyable experience with lovely views, paved trails, public restrooms, & a couple of picnic tables with barbecue grills. The Parks & Recreation department has done a good job so far, but the construction of the restroom facility cost more than the original estimates & they have requested an additional $110,000 from the RRROC to construct more group & family picnic sites (there are 2 so far) & build the ampitheater to complete the first phase of the project.

Three phases are planned for the construction of this park, to add more trails & picnic areas, landscaping, an outdoor performance space, river access, space for boats & RV's, & more. For more information, please read on ... and/or visit the Sonoma County Parks & Recreation Commission's Guerneville River Park Web page.

After looking over the plans included in the RRROC meeting packet, I do share many of the concerns expressed by the committee heads at the meeting. There does seem to be an awful lot of concrete & stainless steel involved in this project (for the seat walls, pavers, retaining walls & other landscaping features as well as the actual buildings) & these are not the most aesthetically pleasing materials in the world. To some extent, this is necessary due to flooding & maintenance issues. But it would be nice to offset all the concrete with some more natural (or natural-looking) materials.

The tale of our park excursion

A few weeks ago, a friend suggested taking our kids to the "new River Park." I responded as many folks around here might: "Um ... what new River Park." When he explained that you can get to it via the Guerneville Foot Bridge or from the extension on Drake Road (near Drake Park & under the bridge) & described it as "really nice," I shuddered in horror & uttered a bizarre, gurgling sound. After implementing the heimlich maneuver & checking my pulse, my friend kindly suggested doing something else.

My daughter's & my last exploration of the current park site (about a year ago) was not pretty & involved copious quantities of garbage & broken glass. We were taking a walk along the Guerneville Foot Bridge & the evil monkey grew increasingly curious about the steep, narrow, muddy foot-path leading towards the river. So we stumbled, slid, & clambered down. The location was lovely, verdant & peaceful. Alas, it was also utterly filthy.

"NO, honey, you may NOT take off your shoes!"

My daughter gleefully scampered about gathering "treasures" (um, garbage) into plastic bags. Apparently, my mania for picking up trash has evolved into a fun game for her. Meanwhile ... ghastly visions of my forcibly holding my daughter down to the emergency room table while nurses with latex gloves probe the gashes in her tiny feet with tweezers for shards of glass & steel & who-knows-what; administer tetanus shots with long needles; briskly stitch up her wounds, & then inform me that my daughter has not much longer to live ... run through my head over & over again like an infinite video loop.

Fast-forward to yesterday: My friend & I take the kids to the playground at Drake Park to enjoy the beautiful weather. Another friend of ours is there with his little girl, his guitar & his buddy who serenades us with some lively, tuneful country songs (including a number by Alison Krauss & a witty political song of his own composition). After an hour, the children start getting restless & we decide to walk over to the new park.

It's a bit muddy & the meadow will look kind of naked until the newly-planted trees take root, but overall, the place does look "really nice" -- just like my friend said.

Yes, the doors to the new restrooms do face directly onto the path & are locked in the open position, as John Uniak pointed out at the RRROC meeting (though one can close the doors to the individual stalls, of course). However, I asked my friends & a couple of men passing by what they thought about the new restrooms & they all gave the facility rave reviews. Of course the subjects of my informal poll were all guys who probably see anything as an improvement over peeing in the bushes ... But my daughter is extremely picky about bathrooms & we were both extremely happy about not having to use that nasty portapotty at Drake Park. However, the guys might feel differently about the privacy issue when the park is full of people ... especially if the men's room has urinals in addition to stalls (I didn't look).

The kids had a grand-old time running around the meadow & exploring, though I think their favorite feature was the huge pile of boulders underneath the bridge! Parks & Rec also planted a lovely little rosebush, but I'm worried that the poor thing might get trampled.

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