As regular users of 17-year-old Overlook Trail know, a number of segments are showing quite a bit of wear and tear, the result of high use and erosion.
When it first opened, the trail had about 5,000 annual visits and now logs more than 50,000. All of those footsteps and running-steps deliver a pounding and eventually “dish” the trail. In some places, trail layout has disrupted the natural pattern of storm water flow, causing it to surge down the path instead of sheeting across and over it. The result is that the thin soil layer, characteristic of the hillside, has been scoured down to volcanic bedrock, creating dicey footing and trip hazards.
All trails need regular, cyclical maintenance, but these issues are more substantial. Sonoma Overlook Trail Stewards, an all-volunteer group that monitors the trail and performs routine maintenance, asked noted California trail expert Don Beers, who designed the adjacent Montini trail a few years ago, to assess Overlook’s condition and advise how to improve its sustainability.
Mr. Beers spent several days on site in 2016 and recommended some rehabilitation and restoration measures and re-routing around the most problematic areas. Stewards decided to tackle the work in phases, beginning with the lower route, tentatively scheduled for Fall 2017.
The project will take 10-12 weeks and involves:
- Rehabilitation of trail entrance: When setting out from the First Street West entrance, users immediately encounter an exposed incline, which has badly eroded and created poor footing. Given the terrain, and the fact that access is sandwiched between Norrbom Road and the Cemetery, the most sustainable and safest solution is to install stone steps. The Kiwanis Club of Sonoma Plaza have generously agreed to help fund this work.
- Reroute of a portion of the lower trail to avoid a badly degraded, rocky segment with switchbacks and abrupt elevation changes. The new segment will follow land contours in terrain that can better support a trail that gets lots of use and that will provide more sure footing. The old segment will be restored back to a natural condition. Stewards are seeking funding from the public and grant-making agencies.
- Rehabilitation of the rest of the lower trail to improve tread, encourage natural sheet flow during rain events, and transition grade changes in a more sustainable and safer way. Stewards are seeking funding from the public and grant-making agencies.
The Sonoma Overlook Trail maintenance, restoration and educational programs are funded by individuals, local civic groups and businesses at no cost to the City of Sonoma.
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