Vinny Schwartz, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
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Wildlife abounds in Sonoma County during all seasons and includes seals, sea lions and the occasional elephant seal and the twice-annual flotilla of Humpbacks. There are bobcats, skunk, otter, raccoon, fox, muskrat, deer, coyote and lions. Also voles, opossum, mice, rats and a raft of amphibians, lizards and fish. The black bear has made a tremendous comeback as well with estimates of more than 30,000 in Northern California alone.
But no form of wildlife is viewed as often as birds. Open ocean, rocky coast, beaches, estuaries, bays, rivers and streams, wetlands, chaparral, farmland, vineyards, forested hills and mountains provide habitat for over 394 species of birds. This provides a rewarding and engaging pursuit for people of all ages making bird-watching America’s most popular and widespread hobby.
The mouth of the Russian River is reported to have 70 breeding bird species within a five-kilometer ‘block’ which encompasses it, according to the Madrone Audubon Society. It’s tops among the 195 blocks Madrone delineated to assist them in their breeding bird census.
Many species are more common during spring, autumn and winter but since we’re into summer, listed are a few of the more abundant and common summertime and year round species and where they might be found.
In the woodland and brush along Austin Creek where it empties into the Russian near Casini’s campgrounds there’s an abundance of bird life. Houses line Austin Creek and their yards provide habitat for many species as well.
It’s where four different habitats, each especially attractive to particular species, come together. Thus pelagic birds like cormorants and gulls make excursions up from the river mouth, riparian birds such as herons, wood ducks, kingfisher which favor riverine wetlands are common (actually they’re spectacular but they’re still Common).
Meadow and garden birds such as woodpeckers, grosbeaks and orioles, thrushes like the Swainson’s which we hear but rarely see, bluebirds, flickers and dozens more.
Soaring hawks abound, buteos such as red-tails, red shouldered hawks, along with turkey vultures and the occasional bald-eagle.
Osprey are common and may be heard, seen and discovered in their nests without much trouble.
Read more at: Sonoma County Bird Watching, Bike Rides and Hikes – Part 2
Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County park planners on Thursday will unveil the most recent proposal for a coastal bike and pedestrian trail connecting Fort Ross State Historic Park with Stillwater Cove.
A public workshop at Fort Ross School on Thursday night will provide the second opportunity this year for residents to weigh in on plans for the 3-mile trail. The path is expected mostly to follow Highway 1 through the Timber Cove region, using existing public rights of ways. Opportunities exist for some bluff-top trail as well, according to Mark Cleveland, a senior planner with Sonoma County Regional Parks.
The Timber Cove Trail, though still several years away from being funded and built, will help stitch together a patchwork of publicly owned and managed lands including Fort Ross, Stillwater Cove Regional Park and adjacent Salt Point State Park, where other trail systems already exist.
It also will fill in a stretch of California Coastal Trail proposed to run the entire 1,200-mile length of the state’s coastline.Park planners conducted a public meeting in March designed to narrow design and alignment options that will be presented Thursday night. The process, including public feedback, is part of a feasibility study funded by a $200,000 grant from the California Coastal Conservancy.Thursday’s meeting begins at 6 p.m. at Fort Ross School, 30600 Seaview Road.
More information is available at http://parks.sonomacounty.ca.gov/About_Us/Planning_Updates.aspx.
Cleveland also can be contacted at 565-2041 or by email at Mark.Cleveland@sonoma-county.org.
Source: Public input sought on proposed Timber Cove Trail | The Press Democrat
Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A Napa County winemaker whose plans for a large-scale winery and distillery on Highway 12 between Sebastopol and Santa Rosa have sparked significant dispute since they were unveiled earlier this year has decided to subject the project to a full environmental impact report in hopes of addressing the public’s many questions and concerns.
Joe Wagner, a member of the Caymus Vineyards winemaking family, said it’s been clear for weeks that the breadth of opposition to his Dairyman project demanded greater effort on his part to demonstrate its potential for improving the site’s appearance and productivity without substantial environmental harm.
He said he confirmed his decision to engage in a full-scale independent environmental review for the project after meeting last week with 5th District Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo, who agreed it was the right approach.
“Obviously, it’s expensive and lengthy,” Wagner said Friday, “but it is something that allows the community the opportunity to join in and chime in and become part of the process.”
But it’s not clear additional study will assuage Wagner’s critics, some of whom are holding a community gathering Saturday in Jenner to discuss the larger winery backlash that organizer Shepherd Bliss said has coalesced around the Dairyman plan and other recent winery proposals.
Read more via Large winery proposal on Highway 12 to undergo | The Press Democrat.
Shepherd Bliss, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
Residents from throughout Sonoma County are meeting to strategize about challenging recent proposals for new and expanded wineries as event centers in rural areas. Meanwhile, the Napa County Board of Supervisors has scheduled a March 10 meeting to hear critics of winery over-development.
The huge Dairyman Winery and Distillery proposed for high-speed Highway 12 in the greenbelt separator between Sebastopol and Santa Rosa has been the main target of Sonoma County opponents. It is near the intersection of an already congested two-lane highway and the frequently-flooded Llano Road in the vulnerable Laguna de Santa Rosa vicinity.
Groups such as Sonoma County Conservation Action, Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation, Sebastopol Water Information Group, Rural Alliance, Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, and Apple Roots sent critical comments on Dairyman to Sonoma County’s Permit and Resource Management Department (PRMD).
Vocal Dairyman opponents include a former County supervisor, former mayor, former Planning Commissioner, and former PRMD planner. Environmental scientists, sustainability advocates, food farmers, concerned parents, and the maker of the acclaimed film “Russian River: All Rivers” have spoken against the Dairyman application.
Entrance to Dairyman Winery just east of busy intersection on Hwy 12
They oppose it on many grounds: congested traffic; water over-use, especially during droughts; blocking the popular Joe Rodota trail; damaging the fragile Laguna de Santa Rosa and its wildlife; zoning violations; chemical use that would pollute water, air, and land; and violating the Sonoma County General Plan.
Grape growers and the wine industry contribute many valuable benefits to Sonoma County. Most critics appreciate a good glass of local wine. But they advocate moderation when it comes to such proposals, contending that Dairyman is too big and in the wrong place.
Imagine tipsy tasters crossing the Joe Rodota Trail, full of bikers, skateboarders, children in strollers, walkers, and pets and then entering 60 miles-an-hour traffic. The application demands that Trail users “yield” to the winery’s many vehicles attending up to 58 events a year with as many as 600 people a time.
Read more via Sonoma and Napa County Residents Oppose Winery Over-Expansion.
Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County’s latest gem of a park opens Saturday on the north face of Sonoma Mountain, affording visitors miles of new trails and stunning views rarely seen by the general public.
PDF map of North Sonoma Mountain
About 2 miles along the park’s new main trail, the forest thins to reveal a 180-degree view of northern Sonoma Valley and the Santa Rosa Plain. On a clear morning this week, a number of prominent landmarks were visible in the distance, including Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, Hood Mountain and Mount St. Helena.North Sonoma Mountain’s New Park
Almost as astounding, reaching this vantage point at an elevation of about 2,000 feet did not require strenuous effort, thanks to the cleverly designed trail, which weaves across the diverse landscape at a relatively modest incline.
Planners of what officially is known as the North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve hail the 820-acre site as a model of ingenuity and collaboration among public and private entities. The preserve, located about 3 miles up Sonoma Mountain Road from Bennett Valley Road, abuts Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen, offering hikers, runners and equestrians unfettered access to both outdoor settings.
Connecting parks in such seamless fashion is considered the “holy grail” of park planning, said Bill Keene, general manager of the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District.
via New county park on Sonoma Mountain offers miles | The Press Democrat.
Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Bicyclists and horseback riders do not have a documented legal right to ride through a gated community near Oakmont, a Sonoma County judge ruled this week.
Tuesday’s decision by Superior Court Judge Elliot Daum is the latest setback to Santa Rosa’s effort to preserve a popular bicycling route through the Wild Oak subdivision.
The judge found that while there was discussion during the planning process in the 1970s about extending public access to bicyclists and horseback riders, the 2,300-foot-long easement recorded on the property in 1980 permits public access for pedestrians and emergency vehicles only.
“There was no express grant of any public easement rights for bikes/horses,” Daum wrote in a 28-page ruling.
Read more via Ruling a setback in Santa Rosa’s efforts to | The Press Democrat.
Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Sebastopol City Council will be asked Tuesday night to approve an $89,200 contract to help update and enhance management of more than 80 acres of city-owned property known collectively as the Laguna de Santa Rosa Wetlands Preserve.
The goal of the new management plan, first and foremost, is to ensure adequate protection of sensitive wildlife habitat and other environmental resources that are central to efforts to preserve and restore the expansive waterway.
But city officials also hope to identify opportunities to better link to one another the six properties that make up the preserve with the city’s urban core and with potential users. Officials hope to create a more cohesive identity, perhaps aided by uniform signs and more trails.
“There are some connectivity problems and challenges with these different properties and how they can be knit together and at least identified in some common way,” said city Planning Director Kenyon Webster.
Additional trail development would fit nicely with ongoing community discussion about increased walkability and connectivity between downtown, the new Barlow commercial center and the Laguna Preserve. A multiuse trail on the east side of the channel, opened two years ago by Sonoma County Regional Parks, is very popular.
Read more via Sebastopol to consider Laguna de Santa Rosa contract | The Press Democrat.
Paul Payne, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Advocates of public access to Petaluma’s Lafferty Ranch could be facing a legal setback.
In a tentative ruling last week, Sonoma County Judge Elliot Daum said the city of Petaluma and a citizens group have no legal standing to enforce a county road easement over private property to the public open space on Sonoma Mountain.
And Daum said the city has not proven the 270-acre parcel bought more than a half-century ago is actually landlocked, pointing to an old water facility easement that leads to the area. If his ruling becomes final, the city would be allowed to amend some of its claims but co-plaintiffs from the Friends of Lafferty Park will be forced out of the lawsuit.
The judge heard oral arguments from both sides after issuing his initial findings Tuesday. He then took the matter under submission.
“We’re very happy with the tentative ruling,” said Santa Rosa attorney Les Perry, who represents adjacent property owners, including Kimberly Pfendler and the Bettman-Tavernetti family.
Perry said settlement talks would continue regardless of the final outcome.
Matt Maguire of Friends of Lafferty Park expressed disappointment. The former Petaluma councilman said the city would continue the fight without his group and ask the county to join in.
“That would be a slam-dunk,” Maguire said. “We’ve been asking them for a long time.”
Read more via Judge sides with neighbors in Lafferty Ranch dispute | The Press Democrat.
Meg McConahey, SONOMA MAGAZINE
“Once you have a second home at The Sea Ranch, there are two kinds of days in your life. … The ordinary days you spend in the workaday world and the days you spend on this lovely stretch of seacoast — the days you wish would never end.” ~ From a 1960s ad for The Sea Ranch
Al and Diana Edgerton were tooling north to Mendocino for a July 4 getaway in 1964 when they were beckoned off Highway 1 by a “lots for sale” sign bearing a bold ram’s-horn logo.
The sales office had opened just that weekend for an intriguing new development dubbed “The Sea Ranch.” The deals were as seductive as the setting — thick hillside forests of redwood, fir and fern overlooking a tableland of meadows that meet the sea along a shore notched with nubbly cliffs and coves. Lots could be locked up for as little as $4,500 in the forest east of Highway 1, $8,500 in a meadow with at least a peek of the ocean.
“We stopped out of curiosity. We had never heard of The Sea Ranch,” Edgerton, a retired oral surgeon, remembered. “But we cut short our vacation in Elk and put a down payment on a lot.”
Read more via The Sea Ranch Coastal Legacy | Sonoma Magazine.
Eloísa Ruano González, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Thursday’s meeting will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Sonoma Veterans Memorial Hall, 126 First St. W., Sonoma.
The two others sessions will be held in Glen Ellen — from 9 to 11 a.m. on Oct. 4 at Dunbar Elementary School and at the same time Nov. 1 at Sonoma Valley Regional Park.
Sonoma County on Thursday will hold the first of three meetings to discuss plans for a bicycle and pedestrian trail to run through Sonoma Valley.
The proposed 13-mile trail would start on Melita Road on the eastern end of Santa Rosa and run along Highway 12 to Agua Caliente Road in the Springs area. It’ll allow residents and tourists to travel safely along the busy road while visiting wineries, restaurants, parks and other popular destinations in the area, county regional parks planner Ken Tam said. He estimates the trail could cost $4.5 million.
Tam, who’s heading up the project, said the area already is popular among bicyclists.
“I normally see cyclists up and down that corridor,” he said, adding he often comes across tourists who pull over to the side of the road to snap pictures of Sonoma Valley’s open meadows, rolling hills and vineyards.
The county will be doing a study to determine how many people travel along that area, as well as look at a possible trail design, cost and other benefits. It received a Caltrans grant for about $190,000 to do the study.
via Sonoma County to discuss Santa Rosa-to-Sonoma Valley bike | The Press Democrat.