Sonoma County Regional Parks purchased 515 acres of land in Monte Rio for future use as a county park and open space preserve. The $3.9 million purchase was approved by the county board of supervisors in August and the land was purchased in October.
The land, currently unnamed, will be the first regional park in this part of Sonoma County.
The planning for the park’s development will start in early 2021. According to the county parks department, the planning process takes three to five years and involves “extensive community outreach.”
According to a press release from Sonoma County Regional Parks, the acreage was purchased from the local Torr family in October and is south of the Russian River, at the southern edge of Monte Rio. The acquisition includes three sections of land: one section is west of Main Street generally between Schoolhouse Gulch and Tyrone Road; one section is along Dutch Bill Creek between Main Street and Bohemian Highway; and one section is east of Bohemian Highway.
“The scope and size of this property is ecologically significant and will help preserve the special rural and natural character of west Sonoma County for residents, businesses, visitors and future generations,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, whose 5th District encompasses the Dutch Bill Creek watershed, in a statement. “Conserving this property also is a critical step toward a larger vision of linking river communities and recreation areas, giving residents and visitors alike greater access to these places.”
According to Sonoma County Regional Park, the different sections of the new parkland will offer a variety of experiences for future visitors. On the forested hillsides west of Main Street, former logging roads could serve as the initial hiking and biking trails, with singletrack trails added later. The flat section along Dutch Bill Creek could include walking paths among redwoods and a Class 1 bike trail parallel to Main Street. The section east of Bohemian Highway could provide access to a unique landscape of redwoods and Sargent’s cypress.
“It's not every day a community gets new parkland right out its back door,” said Sonoma County Regional Parks Director Bert Whitaker said in a statement. “We are thrilled to begin working with Monte Rio residents and neighbors to plan and develop their first regional park, and we’re grateful to the Torr family and our funding partners for sharing in this vision. All communities need access to safe, low-cost outdoor recreation opportunities, something the pandemic has made abundantly clear.”
Of the $3.9 million, $1.4 million was from state and federal grants.
Funding sources include $2.1 million from Sonoma County Agriculture Preservation and Open Space District (Ag + Open Space); $954,028 recommended by state parks from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund; $500,000 from the California Coastal Conservancy; $300,000 in local Measure M parks sales tax funds; and $45,972 in park mitigation fees.
“The Torr property contributes to an area of high environmental integrity,” said Lisa Ames, project manager with the California Coastal Conservancy. “Conservation of this intact habitat provides opportunities to protect a diversity of wildlife, a continuous wildlife corridor and redwood coastal forest, all critical resources of statewide significance and whose health will, in turn, benefit the health of local communities and all who visit."
Sonoma Ag + Open Space’s contribution went toward the purchase of the rugged section west of Main Street, 315 acres that feature redwoods and oak woodland, some special status plant and animal species and streams that flow into Dutch Bill Creek, a major tributary of the Russian River. Ag + Open Space will maintain a conservation easement over this section to ensure protection of its natural habitats and scenic landscapes while allowing for compatible public recreational use. The agency also committed $250,000 to support initial public access and the first three years of land management.
“We are excited to partner with Regional Parks to help conserve the unique natural features of the Torr property, which also will offer expanded opportunities for public recreation,” said Ag + Open Space General Manager Bill Keene. “The redwood forests on this new parkland have great potential for long-term stewardship and will offer locals and visitors a place to experience the beauty and peace of nature.”