Mary Callahan, PRESS DEMOCRAT
Misti Arias, a 25-year veteran of the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, has been selected to lead the tax-funded agency as its fourth-ever general manager.
Arias is expected to be appointed formally May 11 to succeed Bill Keene, who resigned last fall after 11 years as head of the 30-year-old open space district.
“It is an honor to be considered for the position of Ag + Open Space general manager,” Arias said in a news release. “I am inspired to further the community’s vision to protect natural and agricultural lands throughout our county.”
Arias has spent her entire career with the agency, starting in 1995 when she took a job as planning technician after graduating from Sonoma State University with a degree in environmental studies and urban planning.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/veteran-official-selected-as-new-head-of-sonoma-county-agricultural-preserv/
Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County has acquired 515 acres of forest on the southern edge of Monte Rio that will be protected and opened to the public as the first major regional park in the lower Russian River area, offering a new outdoor destination for residents and the region’s steady stream of visitors.
The property, long eyed by park planners as a potential gem in the growing collection of preserved open space in west county, contains towering stands of mixed redwood and Douglas fir forest, as well as more than a mile of Dutch Bill Creek, which feeds into the Russian River.
In addition, its location offers options for future links to the Sonoma Coast State Beach and an envisioned 5½-mile “parkway” south through the redwoods between Monte Rio and Occidental.
“There are so many things about this site that are incredible,” said Misti Arias, acquisitions manager for the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, which helped fund the $3.9 million purchase.
Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, who championed the deal from its earliest stages, touted the economic benefits of expanded outdoor opportunities, imagining the new park as a recreational hub that spurs and sustains commerce and community in nearby Monte Rio, which struggles with some of the highest unemployment rates countywide.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/former-sonoma-county-parks-director-to-serve-as-interim-chief-at-open-space/
Richard Retecki and Carol Benfell, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
It’s taken the efforts of hundreds of people, organizations and government agencies, working together for more than sixty years, to preserve our magnificent, dynamic, and unique Sonoma County coast.
Now the Sonoma County Local Coastal Plan, an integral part of that decades-long preservation effort, is being revisited by county officials, and changes will be made. It will be important to be watchful and mindful that we do not lose what so many have fought to save.
Some of our coastal parks date back 90 years, to the very first days of the State Parks system — the 19-mile-long Sonoma Coast State Beach, one of the most visited state parks in California; Fort Ross Historic State Park, Kruse Rhododendron Reserve and Salt Point State Park.
In 1962, Doran Beach in Bodega Bay became the first county park to be created for public use. Gualala Point, Westside Park and Stillwater Cove followed Doran Beach as county coastal parks.
One of the biggest threats to the coast – and county residents — came when Pacific Gas & Electric in 1958 proposed a nuclear power plant at Bodega Head, right on top of the San Andreas Fault. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodega_Bay_Nuclear_Power_Plant
Bodega Bay residents fought back, led by Rose Gaffney and Hazel Mitchell, joined quickly by brothers Karl and Bill Kortum, and forestry student David Pesonen.
Read more at https://www.sonomacountygazette.com/sonoma-county-news/to-love-the-coast-we-had-to-save-it-sonoma-county-lcp/
Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
An association of active and retired state park rangers has sued over the continued use of Jack London State Historic Park for open-air Broadway-styled musical productions that since 2012 have drawn thousands of enthusiastic patrons to the protected ruins of the late novelist’s old winery on summer nights.
The unprecedented lawsuit by the more than half-century-old California State Park Rangers Association claims the State Parks department improperly approved a five-year extension for the Transcendence Theatre Co., contending its large-scale productions conflict with the park’s general plan and the historic site’s protected status.
“The issue, in its simplest form, is that California State Parks is attempting to legitimize the creation of a large, ongoing, multi-million dollar operation and commercial-style theatrical facility right in the heart of Jack London State Historic Park, a national and state historic landmark, and within the ruins at the Beauty Ranch area of the park,” Mike Lynch, president of the rangers association, CSPRA, said in a written statement.
The lawsuit says State Parks officials should have subjected the operation to more thorough study and public scrutiny under the California Environmental Quality Act, the state’s bedrock land-use law.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/10104973-181/lawsuit-targets-transcendence-theatre-operations
Thea Hensel and Tony White, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
For more than 50 years, a two-mile strip of land in southeast Santa Rosa remained vacant and unused. Originally purchased by Caltrans as a right-of-way for Highway 12, the freeway was never built and the land remains neglected. When it was proposed to extend the freeway through Spring Lake Park, community opposition led to abandoning that proposal, and neighbors started thinking of converting this empty land into an asset, an urban greenway.
In 2009, local citizens formed the Santa Rosa Southeast Greenway Campaign, which developed a vision for the land and organized a campaign to plan and promote a greenway. From the start, the project attracted a team of natural leaders with extensive business and government experience. Applying their skills, they recruited a host of volunteers to spread the word and promote the Southeast Greenway.
The campaign forged alliances with local officials and agencies, environmental, educational, running and biking groups and raised funds to engage the community. In 2014, Caltrans decided to rescind the freeway designation and offered to give Santa Rosa the opportunity to purchase the land for a greenway.
Meanwhile, the campaign continued its work, creating a partnership with the Sonoma Land Trust, Sonoma Water, Sonoma County Regional Parks, Land Paths and the city of Santa Rosa. It is a shining example of a public-private partnership in which grassroots activists work for the benefit of the greater community.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/opinion/9903430-181/close-to-home-turning-a
Matt Brown, PETALUMA ARGUS-COURIER
Petaluma city leaders are forging ahead with plans to create public trails on Lafferty Ranch, a scenic Sonoma Mountain property east of town that the city has owned for decades but has been tied up in legal disputes for a generation.
Disputes over public access to the 270 acres of wooded, rolling hills the city has owned since 1959 have polarized Petaluma politics since the 1990s, when council meetings overflowed with angry constituents and devolved into shouting matches.
Multiple legal claims have been fought, while mediation and near-agreements have played out behind the scenes.
But it now appears Petaluma believes it has the legal right to move forward with public access without a court order.
A lawsuit against adjoining property owners Kimberly Pfendler and the Bettman-Tavernetti families, pressed six years ago by open space advocates Friends of Lafferty Park and the city, was withdrawn in April with no agreement.
Mediation talks to allow some kind of public access broke down when the parties could not agree on access to parking and where trails might be allowed.
Sonoma County Superior Court records show the case was dismissed without a resolution.
“We did not reach a settlement and we are not going to reach a settlement,” City Attorney Eric Danly said. “It is not in litigation any more. The parties have withdrawn from mediation.”
Read more at https://www.petaluma360.com/news/9651791-181/petalumas-lafferty-ranch-lawsuit-dropped
Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Call it Chanate 2.0.
Sonoma County supervisors are once again seeking to sell a nearly 72-acre property in northeast Santa Rosa to an affordable housing developer, reviving an effort started more than three years ago that triggered a neighborhood rebellion and a legal challenge that ultimately forced the county to cancel a deal with a prominent local homebuilder.
The property in question is at 3313 Chanate Road, site of the old county hospital and later Sutter Medical Center. It was slated by the county to be one of Santa Rosa’s largest single housing projects in recent memory.
But the legal setback prompted the county in October to walk away from a multimillion-dollar deal with developer Bill Gallaher, who wanted to build 867 housing units on the sprawling site, including rental apartment buildings three or four stories tall, a prospect that neighbors vehemently opposed.
In December, supervisors voted to start all over again, and county staffers last week solicited financial offers from about 650 organizations, including five local Native American tribes.
Prospective buyers are limited, under state law, to designated public agencies and “housing sponsors” that would focus on building affordable housing, with parks, schools or other government facilities as alternatives. For housing sponsors, the property would carry a 55-year deed restriction for affordable housing.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9284804-181/sonoma-county-renews-effort-to
Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Santa Rosa City Council on Tuesday banned the use of synthetic weed-killers like Roundup at dozens of parks, buildings and medians around town.
The decision came on a unanimous vote — with Mayor Chris Coursey absent and barely any audience in the council chambers — to approve a one-year extension of the contract with a company that has provided city landscape maintenance services since 2014.
But it culminated a citizen campaign, initiated three years ago, to eliminate use of synthetic herbicides on city property.
The company, Golden Gate Landscape Management, has sprayed glyphosate-based weed killer on parks and other public property under its $509,000 annual contract. The council renewed the contract, but added a prohibition on glyphosate.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8657806-181/santa-rosa-bans-use-of?ref=most
Deborah A. Eppstein and Craig S. Harrison, KENWOOD PRESS
We are shocked by proposed changes to the Cannabis Ordinance that would reduce buffer zones around parks to allow commercial marijuana cultivation on park borders. We think the current 1,000-foot setback from parks to neighboring parcel boundaries should be increased to 2,000 feet. Instead, on Aug. 7, the Board of Supervisors may decide to measure setbacks from the site of the grow instead of the parcel boundary, acquiescing to heavy lobbying by big growers. This would undermine the protection of our parks.
Why is the county rushing to authorize marijuana cultivation next to our parks and homes? It should employ the precautionary principle, as for any new business model. If transition from illegal to legal grows proceeds smoothly, the county can then reconsider modifications on where grows are permitted, based on real-life experience of what works and doesn’t for the community. Instead, the prevailing mood seems to be speed and greed.
Sonoma County is blessed with parks. Hood Mountain Regional Park, Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, Jack London State Park, Trione-Annadel State Park, North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park, and Taylor Mountain Regional Park are treasures. Why endanger them?
Robust buffer zones improve fire protection, facilitate finding illegal grows, and maintain the parks’ undeveloped nature with a transition zone. Allowing commercial grows to operate close by undermines enforcement and the safety of park visitors, who might encounter violence both from illegal grows masquerading as legal ones or legal grows near park boundaries. In rugged areas, it is common for hikers to wander beyond park boundaries. On Cougar Lane, which abuts Hood Mountain, growers often patrol their land with firearms and attack dogs. This intimidates neighbors and potentially hikers in the park.
Read more at http://www.kenwoodpress.com/pub/s/guested
Jonah Raskin, THE SONOMA VALLEY SUN
Last October’s firestorms stunned Sonoma Valley citizens, though once the smoke cleared and embers were extinguished, families and friends ventured out to see the spectacle of blooming flowers and green trees.
Richard Dale, the executive director for 26 years at the Sonoma Ecology Center (SEC), said that the disaster brought about “heightened interest in the environment.” Some of that concern, he added, was “about the need to prevent future fires” and some was “amazement at the natural world.”
In light of our recent fires, and droughts and floods, it might be useful to remember that the pioneers who crossed the plains, forded rivers and scaled mountains were the opposite of conservationists. In fact, they made a continental-sized mess by slashing forests, exhausting soils, polluting waters, exterminating Indians tribes and decimating wild life.
Read more at http://sonomasun.com/2018/06/21/the-trail-blazers-local-eco-pioneers-lead-the-way/