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Santa Rosa's Joe Rodota Trail to reopen as encampment residents are relocated

Cyclists question decision to close off Joe Rodota Trail over homeless encampment
Cyclists question decision to close off Joe Rodota Trail over homeless encampment 03:22

SANTA ROSA – A section of the Joe Rodota Trail in Santa Rosa that has been closed off for two weeks is set to reopen, as people living in a homeless encampment on the trail are being offered to relocate at shelters.

Sonoma County officials said Friday that they have been able to identify available shelter space to accommodate the 30 to 35 residents at the site. Residents who opt for the shelters would receive assistance from county staff to relocate their belongings.

"The team will begin moving individuals into shelter today and will continue to provide assistance until both encampments are cleared," officials said in a statement.

By law, alternative shelter must be offered before the encampment can be cleared.

People living at the encampment who choose not to relocate will receive notices to vacate the site by Tuesday at 8 a.m.

County officials closed a half-mile stretch of the trail alongside the encampment on July 8, citing "the encampment's impact on the safety of those using the pathway."

A section of the Joe Rodota Trail in Santa Rosa closed to visitors due to a homeless encampment, July 13, 2022. CBS

Users of the trail, particularly cyclists, were opposed to the closure. On Tuesday, a group from the Sonoma Bicycle Coalition rallied in front of the Sonoma County building, calling for the trail to reopen.

Cyclist Janelle Black told KPIX 5 at Tuesday's protest that she didn't understand what she described as a panicked response.

"Yes, a huge overreaction," Black said. "There's always tents on the trail. I mean, they kind of move around. Sometimes there's more, sometimes it kind of goes down when they move people along.  But there are always homeless people on the trail."

Supervisor Lynda Hopkins told KPIX 5 on Tuesday that the closure took place to prevent a repeat of what happened in early 2020, when a larger encampment along the trail was cleared, costing $1 million.

"One of the challenges that we've seen is, once an encampment gets established and there's a certain number of people, you kind of hit a threshold where it starts to snowball really quickly, and it's known as 'the place to go.'  And that's what we want to avoid," Hopkins told KPIX 5.

Officials said once the encampment is cleared, Sonoma County Regional Parks will begin a cleanup process of the area. The trail is expected to reopen within seven days after all encampment residents are relocated.

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