Elissa Chudwin, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
An extension of the West County Trail that connects to downtown Forestville now is open, according to a news release from Sonoma County Regional Parks.
The .2-mile extension connects the trail’s northern end at Parajo Lane to Front Street in Forestville for the first time in the trail’s history. An 8-foot-wide raised boardwalk also was constructed on a section of the extension so cyclists and pedestrians can access the trail despite seasonal flooding.
The West County Trail is part of a 13-mile network that links Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Graton and Forestville.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/west-county-trail-extension-opens-near-downtown-forestville/
Susan Minichiello, PRESS DEMOCRAT
One thing you won’t see at Tolay Lake Regional Park: a giant lake.
It was once Sonoma County’s largest freshwater lake, according to Sonoma County Regional Parks. But Tolay Lake was drained by a 19th-century German immigrant farmer using dynamite, and with his action a sacred gathering place for Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo tribes for thousands of years washed away.
Thousands of charmstones were found at Tolay Lake after it drained, and many are more than 4,000 years old, according to a 2017 Bay Nature magazine article by Greg Sarris, chair of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.
Charmstones were usually flat, rectangle or oval-shaped stones a few inches long and used for a variety of reasons, including for luck in hunting or healing. At Tolay the charmstones came from places as far away as Mexico, Sarris wrote.
“What we’ve always known is that Tolay Lake was a great place of healing and renewal, that Indian doctors came from near and far to confer with one another and to heal the sick,” Sarris wrote.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/sonoma-countys-largest-freshwater-lake-sacred-site-was-drained-by-a-farm/
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/
Steven Nett, SONOMA COUNTY REGIONAL PARKS BLOG
No, it’s not the zombie apocalypse. This threat is from invasive plant and animal species that have wormed their way into Sonoma County despite best efforts to stop them. Some are just as scary, gruesome and strange as fantasy creatures. But unlike the fictional walking dead, these invaders can do actual harm.
Take the brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater.) Cowbirds originally lived on the Great Plains, following bison that scared up a rich diet of insects. Because their food source was mobile, cowbirds, didn’t have the luxury of sitting on nests to raise their young. Instead, they developed the strategy of laying eggs in the nests of other birds, who then unwittingly feed and raise them. To ensure they do, cowbirds often remove the host bird’s own eggs.
When humans brought cattle to Sonoma County, the cowbirds followed. Today, two of California’s native birds, the least Bell’s vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus) and willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii), are listed as endangered because of brown-headed cowbirds.
This is just one case of the silent ongoing battles between natives and invasive species in Sonoma County.
Then there’s medusahead (Taeniatherum caput-medusae.) Medusahead is a fast-spreading grass with a nasty survival skill: The plant incorporates exceptionally large amounts of fine silica (the raw material used to make glass) into its leaves, stems and spiky awns, the needle-like crowns (pictured below) that give medusahead its fearsome name.
Read more at https://parks.sonomacounty.ca.gov/Learn/Blog/Articles/Invasive-Plant-and-Animal-Species/?
Glen Martin, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County Trails Council
If you’ve hiked a newly built or reconstructed trail in one of Sonoma County’s regional parks, there’s a good chance Ken Wells had a hand in it.
Wells, director of the Sonoma County Trails Council, a key partner for the county park agency, is a connoisseur of the grunt work that goes into carving paths for hikers, bikers and horse riders in rugged terrain.He has been toiling in one capacity or another for the trails group for 25 years, building trails, supervising crews and goading people into volunteering for local parks.
“Most of my work consists of putting people together with projects that need doing,” said Wells, 63.
At one time, such public park maintenance was carried out by government crews — county, state or federal. These days, much of the burden falls on volunteers. And that’s not such a bad thing, said Wells, who thinks that support for regional parks has grown because local people are more heavily invested in stewardship.Indeed, most if not all of the park trail work in Sonoma County occurs either under the direct auspices or with the support of the Trails Council, which is also marking its 50th anniversary this year. Council crews regularly labor at Helen Putnam and Taylor Mountain Regional Parks, putting in new trail segments and rehabilitating existing ones. Overall, more than 150 miles of trail traverse county parks, with dozens of additional miles planned for existing and future sites.
Read more at: Trails Council sustains hardy volunteer corps for Sonoma County Regional Parks | The Press Democrat –
Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Thursday’s workshop, which will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Bennett Valley Guild Hall on Grange Road, is the first step in developing a master plan for the park, which is about 3 miles up Sonoma Mountain Road from Bennett Valley Road and abuts Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen.
In the two years since Sonoma County opened a regional park on the north face of Sonoma Mountain, countless visitors have fallen in love with the site’s trails and phenomenal views.
But some visitors almost assuredly have opinions on what they would change at the 820-acre park to improve the experience.
The time to make those concerns known is now.County park officials are hosting a public workshop in Santa Rosa on Thursday to begin charting the long-term management of what officially is known as the North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve.
Do you want more trails at the park? What about allowing dogs?Or, how about the prospect of overnight camping on the nearly 2,500-foot summit?
“There’s basically no plans for it yet,” Karen Davis-Brown, a regional parks planner, said of the North Sonoma Mountain park.
Read more at: Future of North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park under consideration | The Press Democrat
Melanie Parker, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Have you ever watched as a fawn, a coyote or a quail scurries in a panic to find its way around, over or through a fence?
Fences of all descriptions crisscross Sonoma County, and they are a major obstacle for animals simply trying to find food, water and shelter.
There are literally thousands of miles of fence in the county, built for many different purposes: for privacy, to keep pets or livestock in, to mark boundaries, to protect crops, to keep deer out, to protect property from vandalism, to keep animals from entering roadsides. There are many types of fences, some that allow wildlife to safely pass through while others that are actually quite hazardous.
According to those who have researched this issue, the most lethal type of fencing is woven-wire, with one or two strands of barbed wire over the top. These fences block smaller animals from crawling underneath, and often snare one leg of animals like deer that attempt to jump them. Perhaps you’ve seen the remains of a doe or fawn that has met its fate in this manner, left to die dangling from one foot on the far side of the fence. In fact, one study in Utah found that fawns accounted for 90% of the mortalities on woven wire fences.
These are uncomfortable realities, but ones that many different land owners and land managers are confronting. We are doing out part at Sonoma County Regional Parks, working with partners and volunteers to remove old fences in places like Sonoma Valley Regional Park. The best fence often is no fence at all.
We also are working to replace old barbed wire fences with new ones that have smooth wires on the top and bottom, none of which is more than 40 inches tall. They adhere to guidelines set out by the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, and mirror those being used all across the West.
Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County voters came tantalizingly close in 2016 to approving a sales tax measure that arguably would have led to the most sweeping changes to the county’s parks system in its 50-year history.
Measure J supporters said the half-cent sales tax measure, which would have generated an estimated $95 million over a 10-year term, was needed to fund an overhaul of the parks system, including a vast expansion of public lands offering new recreational opportunities.
Under this vision, county-owned properties, including those with jaw-dropping views along the Sonoma Coast, would fully open to the public. Miles of new trails would come online, amenities such as campgrounds would be installed and aging infrastructure at existing parks would be spruced up or repaired.
Those lofty plans stalled after Measure J went came up just shy of the required two-thirds majority in the November election. It failed by 1,082 votes out of nearly 69,800 cast on the initiative.
“Obviously, it’s a shame that it didn’t pass and that it came so close,” Caryl Hart, the county’s Regional Parks director, said this month.
Given the narrow margin of defeat, Hart and other Measure J supporters are now considering whether to go back to voters in 2017 with another tax measure.
Read more at: Year in Review: Narrow defeat for Sonoma County parks measure likely to prompt another try | The Press Democrat
Christian Kallen, SONOMA INDEX-TRIBUNE
Regional Parks Maxwell Farms Plan Update
The future of Maxwell Park got another hearing Wednesday night in a well-attended and lively meeting of locals, interested parties and personnel from Sonoma County Regional Parks. Though billed as “Workshop #2” it followed by over a year the first such meeting, held Jan. 15 2015, and by 10 months a second workshop held at El Verano Elementary last April.
Those meetings were primarily about getting community input on the sorts of features resident would like to see in the 80-acre park, located between the City of Sonoma and Verano.
“It took us longer than expected to marshal the resources to move this plan forward, and allowed more time for researching background information and talking with the different interest groups,” said project planner Scott Wilkinson. He also cited the county’s work toward a Moorland Park on the site of Andy Lopez’ death in 2013 as shifting resources.
This time Wilkinson and Steve Ehret, also of Regional Parks, came with three developed maps for the property that each included the major features the community requested – and a large open-space area taking up almost half the park, in deference to the so-called “conservation easement” that accompanied the parcel when it was deeded to the county.
Though the fact that the county now owns the land essentially voids the easement – the county apparently cannot legally have an easement on land it owns itself, according to Ehret – that didn’t alter the commitment to the “spirit of the easement,” he said.
Read more at: Master plan for Sonoma’s Maxwell Field Park gets | Sonoma Index-Tribune | Sonoma, CA
Alec Peters, KENWOOD PRESS
About 25 people attended a Sonoma County Regional Parks meeting on Oct. 28 to put in their two cents about potential uses for two properties that are now part of Sonoma Valley Regional Park in Glen Ellen.
The properties are adjacent to the Sonoma Highway access for Sonoma Valley Regional Park.
On one side is what’s known as the 29-acre Curreri property, and the other is the 41-acre SDC41 property. Regional Parks officials are in the process of creating a master plan that will create trails and other recreational activities on the new additions, and figure out how they would integrate with the rest of Sonoma Valley Regional Park.
“We want your input,” said First District Supervisor Susan Gorin as she kicked off the meeting in front of the small crowd at the Kenwood Fire House, many of whom were neighbors of the Glen Ellen park.
The SDC41 piece was once part of the state-run Sonoma Developmental Center, but declared surplus property in the 1990s. Open Space bought the property for $600,000 in 2007. The land was then transferred to Regional Parks. The 41 acres consists of oak woodlands and grasslands, some wetland areas, and also provides some panoramic views of the valley.
The Curreri property was bought by the Sonoma Land Trust for $1.1 million in 2014, and then immediately moved to Regional Parks. The area has similar landscape characteristics as SDC41, and also includes a pond, which helps provide a habitat for such species as the Pacific pond turtle, California red legged frog, grasshopper sparrow, and Great Blue heron.
The newest additions to Sonoma Valley Regional Park border its east and west sides, increasing the park by 70 acres. (Source: Sonoma County Regional Parks)
Another aspect of the new lands is increased protection for an officially designated Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor, which provides a crucial linkage for wildlife movement between Sonoma Mountain and the Mayacamas range.
Discussed among the group at the Oct. 28 meeting were potential uses of the new properties, such as the possible locations of trails for hiking, biking, and horses, and educational activities that might include an educational center.
Participants emphasized the need to protect the wildlife corridor and the pond, the need for reforestation in some areas, the removal of barbed wire fencing and invasive weed species on the Curreri land, and a general focus on native land management practice.
All were interested in the potential of Regional Parks acquiring further SDC property that is next to Sonoma Valley Regional Park, especially an area that contains Suttonfield Lake.
Regional Parks staff will take the input from the public and use it as they develop a master plan. Environmental and other studies need to be done, and future public meetings held. It is hoped that approval of the master plan would go in front of the Board of Supervisors in the fall of 2016, with trail construction beginning in the Spring of 2017.
Regional Parks is also preparing a master plan for a 247-acre addition to Hood Mountain Regional Park, known as the Lawson Addition. The Open Space District purchased the property in 2005 for $1,160,000, and then transferred title to Regional Parks in 2014.
A public workshop on the Lawson Addition master plan will take place Wednesday, Nov. 18, 6 to 8 p.m., also at the Kenwood Fire House.
Source: The Kenwood Press – Plans discussed for new Sonoma Valley Regional Park lands