It was a low-key but nonetheless celebratory moment last week when Sonoma County Planning Commissioners finally approved the entryway development that will eventually greet public visitors to the Jenner Headlands Preserve.

 “It’s been a lot of hard work,” said Brook Edwards, the Jenner Headlands preserve manager after the plans were OK’d last week. “We just can’t wait to let people out on that landscape.”

 The Highway 1 entrance project will create a parking area, rest rooms and a coast view trail for people with disabilities and will serve as a trailhead into the 473-acre Jenner Highlands Preserve.

 “I think it’s wonderful,” said Planning Commissioner Tom Lynch, representing the Fifth District on the Commission. The project had been more than five years in the planning for a permit and design approval of the public access on Highway 1 about two miles north of Jenner.

 Plans include a 30-space parking lot and a 400-foot long trail for people with disabilities at the 473-acre Jenner Headlands Preserve that is part of the larger 5,630-acre Jenner Headlands Preserve on the Sonoma Coast.

 The Jenner open space acreage was acquired in 2009 as part of a public –private partnership that included the Wildlands Conservancy and the Sonoma Land Trust. The Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District acquired a conservation easement on the land protecting it in perpetuity from development.

 “When will we be able to go in?” asked Willie Lamberson, the Fourth district Planning Commissioner, after last week’s vote by the Planning Commissioners, acting in their capacity as the county Board of Zoning Adjustments (BZA).

 The public can access the preserve now by means of guided tours arranged by appointment with the Wildlands Conservancy, said Brook Edwards. When the new entryway facilities are completed this year public access will begin without any supervision required.

“We’re hoping to break ground in June,” said Kathy Lowrey of Prunuske Chatham, the Occidental environmental consultants who worked on the Jenner project.

The site contains Native American (Pomo) history and artifacts and was once known as the Rule Ranch, established in 1867. The remains of a dairy are visible east of the trailhead, according to the Jenner Headlands Preserve Public Access report completed by Prunuske Chatham last year.

 When the preserve is open to the public it will be open seven days a week from dawn to dusk with no admission fee.

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