Joe Rodota Trail

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Joe Rodota Trail
Length8.5 miles (13.7 km)
LocationSonoma County, California, United States
Cycling details
Joe Rodota Trail
Prince Greenway
Santa Rosa Creek
SR 12
Dutton Avenue
Stony Point Road
Homeless encampment
Wright Road
Sebastopol Road
Merced Avenue
Llano Road
Laguna de Santa Rosa
West County Trail

The Joe Rodota Trail is a 8.5-mile (13.7 km) paved walking trail and bicycle path in Sonoma County, California that spans from near the intersection of Mill Station Road and Highway 116 in Sebastopol to the area of West 3rd Street and Roberts Avenue in Santa Rosa. The trail provides a safety separation for pedestrians and bicycles from motor vehicle traffic on the parallel California State Route 12/Luther Burbank Memorial Highway.[1]

From 2018 to early 2020, the trail has been the center of local news reporting due to a homeless encampment placed there that had been rapidly increasing in number of residents. The encampment was a topic of concern of nearby residents and politicians, and has resulted in the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approving $12 million for housing units for some of the campsite's homeless residents. In January 2020, the encampment was dispersed and some of its campers and inhabitants relocated to other areas in Santa Rosa or Sonoma County.


The trail is the former right-of-way of the Petaluma and Santa Rosa Railroad built in 1904 to provide interurban service from a ferry connection in Petaluma through Sebastopol to Santa Rosa. The rail line was purchased by the Northwestern Pacific Railroad in 1932.[2] The right-of-way was converted to a walking and bicycle path by the Sonoma County Regional Parks Department after declining freight traffic caused abandonment of rail service over the route in the 1980s.[3] The trail is named after Joseph “Joe” Rodota, Sr, father of writer and political consultant Joseph Rodota, Jr.; Rodota, Sr. was the county's district's first director.[4]

Homeless encampment[edit]

Following housing losses of the Tubbs Fire, the trail became the site of a major homeless encampment located nearby Stony Point Road, which was the largest in Sonoma County history.[5] As of December 2019, the encampment had encompassed over one mile of the trail and had over 220 homeless inhabitants, which steadily increased over the several months prior. An article from the San Francisco Chronicle put an estimation of 300 homeless residents, which accounted for approximately ten percent of Sonoma County's homeless population at the time. A 150-resident homeless encampment, located one mile (1.6 km) away behind a Dollar Tree on Sebastopol Road in Santa Rosa, was dismantled in August 2018, and a lawsuit was filed over the teardown of that camp which resulted in a federal court injunction preventing officials from taking matter over homeless camps unless they had shelter and storage for campers’ personal belongings. Sixty percent of the people from that encampment relocated to the Joe Rodota Trail encampment.[6] Incidents such as fires and arson took place in the encampment three times in a span of two months from November 2019 to January 2020, including a tank explosion on New Year's Eve 2019.[7] Issues such as violent crime and sexual assaults became a plight for the trail and its surrounding areas, and a county supervisor voiced concern that the campsite had steered away many would-be trail pedestrians and cyclists, and had become a nuisance for people who live in the neighborhood.[6]

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved a plan to provide housing for some of the homeless campers, in a $11.63 million leasing that will provide at least six units for at least twenty people.[8] The county will spend up to $5 million to buy six multi-bedroom houses that could shelter 60 people, $3.2 million to hire seven new staffers and fund contracts for drug treatment beds and medical support, and $750,000 into annual leases of six to seven units to serve another 20 residents.[9] In January 2020, the encampment was dismantled by local authorities, and some of its inhabitants moved elsewhere locally, including a homeless community in Oakmont.


  1. ^ "Joe Rodota Trail". Sonoma County Regional Parks. Retrieved January 13, 2020.
  2. ^ Ellison, Robert; Sievers, Walt (1952). "Petaluma and Santa Rosa Railroad Company". The Western Railroader. Francis A. Guido. 15 (148): 3–14.
  3. ^ "West County Regional Trail". Retrieved 13 January 2020.
  4. ^ Rush, Laura Hagar (May 29, 2017). "Sonoma County Regional Parks celebrates 50 years". Sonoma West.
  5. ^ Johnson, Doug. "How the Tubbs Fire Affected Santa Rosa's Homeless Population". FOX40. Retrieved 13 January 2020.
  6. ^ a b Fagan, Kevin (December 16, 2019). "Santa Rosa struggles with biggest homeless camp in county history". San Francisco Chronicle.
  7. ^ Fixler, Kevin (January 12, 2020). "Santa Rosa fire crew responds to small fire at Joe Rodota Trail homeless encampment". Press Democrat.
  8. ^ Lanaras, James (January 11, 2020). "Sonoma County supervisors scheduled to vote on housing proposals for homeless". KTVU.
  9. ^ Silvy, Tyler (December 24, 2019). "Sonoma County supervisors approve $11 million in emergency spending on Santa Rosa homeless encampment". Sonoma Index-Tribune.