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Forestville: The ‘hands-on’ town

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013 | Posted by

Max Broome, the President of the Forestville Planning Association, stands in a part of an 8-acre parcel of land that the association is planning to buy and use as a park. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

The town of Forestville has about 3,200 residents, according to the newest census, and it isn’t even incorporated. But size and officialdom has never stopped the “hands on” community from getting things done.

In the past, residents have created a fire district, a water and sewage district, and even a youth park where the local kids can play baseball and such.

Now Forestville has taken on another a big challenge, to create an official village green in the heart of downtown, and there’s  deadline involved.

The eight acres on Front Street in the heart of downtown have served as an unofficial village green for about 100 years. That’s where people gather for the annual Christmas Tree Lightings, where Business Expos and Town Socials are held, where Farmers Markets have been held and where overflow parking goes.

Back in the early 2000s, developer Orrin Thiessen bought the land with the idea of developing it. Townspeople quickly formed the Forestville Planning Association to guide the outcome. Thiessen was amenable and promised a town square where people could meet, hold markets, light a tree at Christmas, or maybe even hold a revolution.

The recession drove him out of business and caused him to file for bankruptcy. Townsfolk kept using the land, and in May of 2011 the Summit Bank took possession.

“Those of us in the Forestville Planning Association spent time reflecting on our mission,” said President Max Broome, who has lived in Forestville all his life and clearly loves his hometown. “We had always focused on the downtown, and we decided we had to take the future into our hands.”

Association members came upon information about Sonoma County Open Space District’s matching grant program and by February had completed the application and done due diligence.

They went before the Board of Supervisors in July with the backing of Supervisor Efren Carrillo, and the project was approved. Then they won a $750,000 Open Space grant that must be matched in cash and in-kind donations — by July 31.

So far the group has raised more than $500,000 and are pushing to get the last of the donations they need.

“We are counting on the community to invest for now and into future generations,” said Broome. “People can pledge now and pay over the next five years.

“For example, if someone wants to give $25,000 they can do it at $,5000 a year until July 2017, but the total of the pledge is counted now towards matching the grant.”

People also can contribute with in-kind donation pledges. Planners, design pros, landscape architects, organizations can pledge labor.

And what will the green be like if the town gets it? Plan on something both useful and beautiful.

“The land already abuts the end of the West Sonoma County Trail,” Broome says. “People already park on it to access the trail Even bike companies have used it to stage rides from here.

“Regional Parks is very excited and will contribute towards expanding the trail from here down Mirabel Road to Steelhead Beach. Summit Bank is really cooperating, Open Space has a supportive planner working with us and Regional Parks has been helpful.”

In addition to amenities that will make the trail more accessible, a town square will be built on the flatter end of the property close to the road, with benches, a gazebo and maybe an amphitheater. The goal is making it as low maintenance as possible.

“It’s a gorgeous piece of land. It is really our end of the Green Valley,” said Broome.

A Town Hall Meeting about the town green will be held from 4-6 p.m. SaturdayMay 18 at the Oddfellows Hall at the corner of Hwy. 116 and Covey Road. At that time, organizers will ask Forestville folks to look at the facts and hopefully leap at the opportunity.

So now that it is down to the wire, it’s back in the hands of the little town that can.

  • wendy

    I wish Rohnert Park would do that – the old State Farm campus would make a lovely town green or downtown area – so we could have some “there” there.

  • http://95436.org Janet Zagoria

    Forestville Planning Association recently found out that we need to get our contributions finalized for the matching grant by Sonoma County Open Space by JUNE 7. People can ask more questions at the Town Meeting on Sat., May 18. Go to 95436.org for current information and to make contributions toward our future downtown open space park.

  • http://www.econetwork.net larry loebig

    This is an exciting time for Forestville.

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Andrea Granahan is our West County correspondent.
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