Former duck pond on Calder Creek in Ives Park, Sebastopol

Former duck pond on Calder Creek in Ives Park, Sebastopol (photo by Peter Schurch)

The Sebastopol Planning Commission unanimously supported restoration of Calder Creek in Ives Park at their June 28 meeting. Consultants from RHAA Landscape Architects presented three alternatives, based on input from City staff and Ives Park stakeholders, including the Sebastopol Creek Stewards, Chamber of Commerce, Sebastopol Little League, and Ives Pool. RHAA presented the three plans, with scopes ranging from basic maintenance of the existing park to a full-blown renovation of every aspect except the ball field and the pool itself, as “kits of parts” that the Commission could mix and match as they wished. Since the park is small, broken up by the ball field and pool, and needs to accommodate a very wide range of uses from nature (the creek) to festival crowds (Apple Blossom, Cajun, etc.), the challenge is better serve everyone while making the park feel more of a whole.

RHAA’s most radical proposal would expand the park to include the odd triangle at the Willow/Jewell intersection, which has has been one of my personal goals that I’ve brought up at every occasion in both Calder Creek/Ives Park and Safe Routes to School discussions (as has my wife). They also propose undergrounding the creek between the current end of the upper culvert (below Willow) and the northwest corner of the pool. The change would provide the opportunity to create a large, open, grassy area at the upper end.

Ives pond at flood stage

Ives pond at flood stage, winter 2010 (photo by Peter Schurch)

The consultants pointed out that restoration in this section is far more challenging than lower down due to the depth of the channel and presence of heritage oaks; a sewer main and high groundwater only add to the problems. The redwood trees next to the creek on this section are dying for unknown reasons and will have to be removed, which would add to the available field area. Under this proposal, the playground could be relocated to the edge of the field area and stage moved elsewhere. The Creek Stewards were mixed on the proposal, as were the Commissioners, but overall, the sentiment was toward exploring this option if it allowed restoration of the remainder of the creek.

As in previous Commission and City Council discussions, the topic of fences and access to the creek came up repeatedly. Because the creek is so constrained and experiences very high flows during winter storms, some amount of fencing is inevitable, but RHAA proposed pushing the pathways as far as possible from the creek (even annexing the area directly behind the outfield fence) to gain space for laying back the banks. This would make access in the meadow and current rose garden areas more feasible, with some kind of seating for both nature enjoyment and festival accommodation. Perhaps only the lower and narrower portions would need permanent fences, or perhaps the gentler portions could have many gates rather than fully removable fencing. That discussion will continue once the Commission decides on the scope and shape of any restoration.

Calder weir at flood stage

Calder weir at flood stage, winter 2010 (photo by Peter Schurch)

RHAA’s plan had been for the Commissioners to vote preferences on individual elements in each section of the park, but the Commission decided they would rather let each member state their goals and preferences; RHAA would then incorporate them into a new proposal to present at one of the August meetings. As they spoke, a few themes stood out:

  • Go for the full remodel
  • Restore as much creek as possible
  • Create access to the creek
  • Move the playground to a space near the fire station and move the stage to the current playground station
  • Reduce pavement
  • Add recognition of Pomo culture

We’re excited to see how many of our ideas made their way into the proposals. We hope the City Council will be receptive to the bold (and costly) ideas that are likely to be in the final proposal when they see it this autumn. With money from the state in ever shorter supply, changes will likely be some time in coming and heavily dependent on grants. Fortunately, creek restoration is a good bet for grants.

Calder Creek at flood stage

Calder Creek at flood stage, winter 2010 (photo by Peter Schurch)

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