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Sonoma County Government: New Regional Park and Open Space Preserve Arrives in Sonoma Valley

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Ag + Open Space transfers 1,290-acre Calabazas Creek open space reserve to regional parks

California

“Ag + Open Space has sought to conserve this property because of its amazing natural resources, important wildlife habitat, magnificent panoramic views, and the potential for it to become a place for the public to explore,” said Susan Gorin, supervisor of the first district, member of the board of directors of Ag + Open Space and whose district includes the reserve. “As we know, the physical and mental health benefits of nature and the outdoors are needed more than ever, and we are delighted that our community can enjoy this magnificent reserve forever.”

Rich in cultural history, the Calabazas Creek Open Space Preserve is located near the eastern border of the Miwok Coast Traditional Territory, with the Wappo to the east and the Southern Pomo tribal territories to the north. In the late 1800s, Anglo-Americans and European settlers introduced ranching, dairy farming, dry farming, and mining to the region. One of the most famous former landowners was Mary Ellen Pleasant, a former slave turned civil rights leader and entrepreneur from San Francisco in the late 1800s, who named the property Beltane Ranch.

Nestled in the Mayacamas mountain range, the reserve is truly a wild place that is home to a wide range of diverse ecosystems and rare plant species, including remarkable wildlife such as peregrine falcons and northern spotted owls. Its namesake stream is home to a variety of species, including the rainbow trout, the yellow-legged foothill frog, and the California giant salamander. The iconic mountain peaks and forested slopes of the reserve are visible from Highway 12, a busy designated scenic corridor.

Ag + Open Space purchased an undeveloped part of Beltane Ranch in 2004 for $ 9.115 million, renaming it Calabazas Creek Open Space Preserve. At the time, it was planned that the property would be transferred and operated by California State Parks. However, due to budget constraints, State Parks was unable to accept title deed. Ag + Open Space then developed a management plan and began working with the regional parks on a potential park and open space reserve that would protect its scenic and natural resources, while providing public recreation. During the transfer, the regional parks will launch a series of guided “park preview” tours, with funding provided by Ag + Open Space, to allow the public to enjoy the reserve while the regional parks provide public access comprehensive, a process that typically takes three to five years. Ag + Open Space will retain a conservation easement and recreation agreement on the property in perpetuity.

“It is extremely gratifying to see our original vision of protecting the reserve’s impressive coves, trees, grasslands and wildlife, while allowing the public to explore this natural gem, come to fruition,” said Misti Arias, Managing Director of Ag + Open Space. . “Now we are seeing that protecting the reserve also provides our community with greater resilience in the face of climate change and increased forest fires, and provides an opportunity to see up close how our natural landscapes are adapting. and recovering from forest fires. “

Although the reserve burned down completely during the Sisters fire of 2017, there has been significant regrowth of shrub and hardwood species in recent years. The reserve is also home to manzanitas that depend on fire to help their seeds germinate, and thousands of new manzanita seedlings have grown on the south-facing slopes since the fire. In partnership with Cal Fire and local land conservation organizations and agencies, Ag + Open Space has applied for a grant to help fund fuel breaker and forest thinning work, which is underway and has already created safer entry / exit conditions along Nuns Canyon Road.

With the onset of climate change, it is important to protect lands with diverse elevations, habitats, plant communities and microclimates to ensure that wildlife has sufficient room for migration and adaptation to the rising sea levels, warming temperatures and environmental changes. . The reserve begins at the bottom of the valley and climbs to the top of the mountain ridges at around 2,000 feet. This vast property includes a variety of soil types, habitats and topographical features that allow adaptation to climate change.

“As you explore Nuns Canyon, the sounds of Highway 12 and the outside world are replaced by the flowing waters of Calabazas Creek and a spectacular diversity of habitats,” said Bert Whitaker, Director of Sonoma County Regional Parks. . “This wild and vibrant landscape, close to other protected lands accessible to the public, is important because of the many benefits it offers to people and wildlife. The preservation of this property expands regional wildlife corridors, creates the possibility of multi-use trails and connectivity with regional trail networks, and preserves critical natural buffer zones that reduce the risk of forest fires to neighboring communities. ”

Calabazas Creek Open Space Preserve sits between Sugarloaf State Park and Sonoma Valley Regional Park and offers a potential alignment to access the Bay Area Ridge Trail, a 400+ mile trail system that crosses seven counties and encircles the entire San Francisco Bay Area.

Before the new park can open for full public access, regional parks will complete a master plan to guide trail development, recreational and educational uses, and stewardship of natural resources. Public awareness of the planning process is expected to begin in early 2022. Beginning in fall 2021, regional parks will be holding guided “preview” outings to provide regular public access to the park and reserve.

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This press release was produced by the Sonoma County Government. The opinions expressed here are those of the author.


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