History in a Nutshell
The existence and forms of Petaluma's earliest parks are rooted in national ideas about shared public spaces, but their appearance was tempered by local conditions and, just as importantly, by the practical constraints of a modest and thrifty community. As in other new California towns, Petaluma grew up in a rather happenstance manner. The earliest layout of Petaluma included a plaza, but no public parks.
At an early date a very effective volunteer group, the Ladies' Improvement Club, was formed to create our first parks; to this day many individual volunteers and many service groups and clubs continue to play unusually strong role in park development, improvement, and park care in Petaluma. Over its history the town has also benefited from some unusually generous gifts of funds or land by private citizens. The generosity of the town's citizens is one of the aspects of Petaluma I treasure, but the town would also benefit from some comprehensive and professional park planning.
Expectations about the value and use of parks continues to change. In Petaluma, sport fields, playgrounds, and dog parks are the most used park spaces. More passive park uses, and parks as habitat protection areas and open space or land trust areas, are examples of other uses, as in Shollenberger Park and Westridge Open Space.