Mayor David Hagele
BRIGHT FUTURE David Hagele has long represented Healdsburg as a member of the Great Redwood Trail Agency. (Photo by Christian Kallen)

Hikers, cyclists, neighbors, merchants and interested parties are invited to weigh in on the Great Redwood Trail, the 300-plus miles of rail-to-trail conversion stretching from Marin County to Humboldt Bay.

When complete, the Great Redwood Trail could be the longest multi-use rail-trail in the country, promoting “accessible recreation” to California’s North Coast region as it connects the communities of Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino, Trinity and Humboldt counties.

Public comment on the Great Redwood Trail Draft Master Plan is open only until June 3. It’s the last chance for input on the Master Plan, the document that will guide implementation of the Great Redwood Trail.

ROUTE The Great Redwood Trail follows the course of the former Pacific North Coast Railroad, from Sonoma County to Humboldt Bay.

“It has been a long journey, preparing for the launch of this draft Master Plan,” said Sen. Mike McGuire, who represents the North Coast District 2 through which the trail passes. Formulated only three years ago, the Great Redwood Trail agency has been on a 16-month binge of public outreach, a sometimes painful process.

“The Great Redwood Trail Agency has hosted numerous community and kitchen table meetings seeking feedback from thousands of neighbors who live near and around this remarkable trail,” McGuire said in the press release. “We are grateful to all of those who provided comments and participated in the meetings.”

The Great Redwood Trail prescribes non-motorized travel through old-growth redwood forests, oak woodlands and vineyards, and the Eel River Canyon. The Master Plan will serve as a guiding document to provide a framework for the trail user experience, including trail design, operations and maintenance, habitat restoration, project priorities, funding and management.

Although the full length of the trail extends into Sonoma and Marin counties, this southern end is not part of this current Master Plan process, as it is being developed by Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART).

Segments of the Great Redwood Trail are already built and open to the public in Arcata, Eureka, Blue Lake and Ukiah, with additional segments underway.

In Healdsburg, the Foss Creek Pathway is considered a component of the Great Redwood Trail, as indicated by signage along the pathway near the Community Center. Other sections of the SMART Pathway following its still-developing rail line will be included as well.

The Master Plan vision of the trail is fully described and outlined on the interactive Public Draft Plan page at

Local Perspective

David Hagele, currently Healdsburg’s mayor, has been a member of the Great Redwood Trail Agency since its inception, and before that its predecessor the North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA).

TRAIL ROUTE A disused railroad bridge over the Eel River is being eyed for conversion to a footpath and bike trail, part of the 314-mile Great Redwood Trail that would run through Healdsburg. (Photo courtesy California Coastal Conservancy)

“Our charge was to protect the easement, the right of way through everything,” he told the Tribune. “The Great Redwood Trail takes the easement that’s been protected by the NCRA and is able to really do something, so that I think a lot more people benefit in the various communities up and down the path.”

He countered recent complaints that the plan has no economic benefit, as opposed to the railroads—which have long since ceased to operate. “A lot of people aren’t considering the economic impact that it’s going to have, the positive economic impact it’s going to have on these various communities where people could explore that immediate area,” Hagele said.

“And each one is unique, like Healdsburg is different then Ukiah, then Cloverdale and whatever, there’s a real opportunity to celebrate each of those little stops,” he added.

The Public Comment period on the draft Great Redwood Trail Master Plan is open until June 3, 2024. There are several ways to comment on the draft Master Plan. Instructions and a webtool are found at Or send comments by email to [email protected].

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Christian Kallen has called Healdsburg home for over 30 years. A former travel writer and web producer, he has worked with Microsoft, Yahoo, MSNBC and other media companies, usually in an editorial capacity. He started reporting locally in 2008, moving from Patch to the Sonoma Index-Tribune to the Kenwood Press before joining the Healdsburg Tribune in 2022.


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