Categorized | Northern California

Cedar Grove Park and the Petaluma River

Bridge Across Petaluma River North

The bridge in question

A short walk this morning was in order on this sunny March day.  Had been interested in exploring a fairly new pedestrian bridge in Petaluma’s industrial area. Visible from Petaluma Boulevard North, it’s part of Petaluma’s projected River Walk, but the less glamorous part. The better known River Walk goes through downtown Petaluma and alongside a very picturesque part of the Petaluma River. This part of the River Walk is decidedly unglamorous. In its current state of affairs, it is not the easiest place to reach, it’s deserted, could be dangerous after a certain hour, and it dead ends at a part of the river is closed to the public.

Naturally, I had to go there.

Joshua was interested in accompanying me, so we headed towards the Boulevard. Up until about 20 years ago, the Petaluma DMV used to be located north of downtown Petaluma, on the corner of Kentucky Street and Prospect.  It has taken that long for the car related businesses to start ebbing away.  There are still auto repair shops and a smog shop, but slowly the old buildings are repurposing and this end of Petaluma Boulevard North is starting to become, dare I say, “trendy”. The latest iteration is the opening of a brewery with a organic juice bar in the entrance lobby. I guess we can call this recent development a turning point moment.

We walked down this part of the Boulevard until we found an alleyway break in the buildings across from Penry Park.

Penry Park Alley

Our walk down the alley took us past some parking lots and lots of small industrial type businesses and warehouses. Within a few moments, we had made it to the water, where one of Petaluma’s granaries loomed ahead of us from across the river.

Looking South towards downtown Petaluma

Looking south towards downtown Petaluma and the Washington Street Bridge

Our bridge in sight, we crossed to the other side, ending up on a nice paved pathway that took us behind the back of another granary and then to Lakeville Street. At this point, I knew where I wanted to go

Back of Petaluma Granary towards Lakeville Street

The pathway meanders behind one of the granaries located on Lakeville by Petaluma Boulevard North

A few weeks ago, I had been at a Petaluma Police Town Hall Meeting and someone had stood up and said he lived in the Cedar Grove Park area and he and his neighbors were tired of living in fear from all of the nearby squatters. I had never even heard of Cedar Grove Park and was fascinated. Within a day or two, an article came out in the newspaper about Cedar Grove and I had wanted to check it out ever since.

Evidently the area of Cedar Grove Park was once named Starke’s Park.  I found one reference to it online, announcing an 1890 4th of July celebration.

I wasn’t quite sure on what side of the Petaluma river the vacant lot was located, so we tried the south side first.  In spite of the signs and fences, it was quite easy to get into the off limits area of the river trail, but after a few minutes, we realized we were on the wrong side of the river, so we walked back out and went into another restricted area on the north side of the river.

Trail with broken fence

A sign says that the trail is closed, but the fence is nicely peeled back

As it turns out, Cedar Grove Park is nestled between the north bank of the river, the railroad tracks on Lakeville, and the back of a residential neighborhood. Bordering its north side are some parcels dedicated to industrial uses. It was quite easy to get into the large vacant lot, every place we wanted to go was readily available, thanks to others who had sliced open and peeled back cyclone fences.  We saw a tent, some blankets thrown around, and the afternoon sun lit up all of the shiny broken beer bottle shards on the trail. Although in the newspaper article there is a photo of a beautiful old yellow house we did not see this house from where we were.  We possibly could have reached it by walking further, but I told Joshua that I did not want to get close to or pass by any structure that could have people living in them. I consider myself to be adventurous – but not stupid.

We saw no cedars in Cedar Grove Park although perhaps in the past there were.

Cedar Grove Park Building Covered with Graffiti

One of the buildings we saw in Cedar Grove Park

In spite of the blight, the birds sang, it was warm outside, and the recent rains have turned everything green.  It would be a nice place to live under other circumstances than a squatters camp.

We decided that enough was enough and turned back. Along the way, a man living in the bushes alongside of the Petaluma River called out “Hello” and waved from behind the branches.

Being sociable by nature, we waved back at him and continued onward, stopping for a few minutes on our way back at the trendy juice bar to split an organic smoothie.

Yellow flower

I have never seen this wildflower before, but it was on the trail and was very pretty.

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