by Meda Freeman from "Sonoma County Gazette"
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, acting concurrently as directors of the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, on Tuesday approved a comprehensive master plan for creating a regional park and open space preserve on the Taylor Mountain properties in southeast Santa Rosa. Over two years in the making, this blueprint for the Taylor Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve details how to provide hiking, camping and other recreation opportunities and protect the environmental and agricultural value of the 1,100-acre site.
Completion of the master plan is a significant step toward the opening of the park and preserve. With the plan approved, the Open Space District is expected to transfer title of the land to Regional Parks this winter. Meanwhile, Regional Parks is exploring options for allowing public use of Taylor Mountain’s existing trails without the special permits currently required and is preparing to begin work on the park and preserve’s first phase along Petaluma Hill Road.
“The master plan is a major accomplishment and represents an extensive, collaborative effort to bring the community into the planning process,” said Supervisor Shirlee Zane, whose 3rd District includes Taylor Mountain. “Taylor Mountain is an amazing resource in the middle of Santa Rosa and the park and preserve will give so many new park users a place to nourish their bodies and minds.”
The Taylor Mountain preserve consists of five contiguous properties acquired by the Open Space District from 1995 to 2011 with funding from a voter-approved sales tax. The District and Regional Parks in 2010 began developing a park master plan that sought to balance recreation with preservation. The goal was to make appropriate areas of the park as accessible as possible but also to protect its natural beauty and diversity. Community input was a key part of the process, with about 500 people attending a series of public meetings and giving planners feedback on park amenities and conservation priorities.
The result is the 246-page Taylor Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve Master Plan approved Tuesday. The plan calls for 17 miles of mostly multi-use trails for hikers, cyclists and equestrians. Trailheads will be located off of Petaluma Hill and Kawana Springs roads, with limited access from Linwood Avenue and Panorama Drive. Campsites, picnic areas and a visitor center will be built on the edges of the property closer to urban areas. Cattle grazing will continue in some sections of the preserve.
Regional Parks earlier this year was awarded a $750,000 state grant to design and construct the first phase of the park. This work will be concentrated off of Petaluma Hill Road and will include a driveway, parking lot, restrooms, picnic tables, play area, and trail connections. Work is expected to be finished by summer of 2014. Additional trails and park features will be developed over time as funding becomes available.
“Taylor Mountain is unique because it is so close to an urban area, yet is home to so many amazing natural habitats that support wildlife such as mountain lion, deer, fox, and even the federally-protected California red-legged frog,” said Bill Keene, general manager of the Open Space District. “This project preserves a scenic natural area as open space forever and creates recreational opportunities for people from all walks of life.”
The Taylor Mountain properties include grasslands, oak woodlands, meadows, wetlands and ridges. The land primarily has been used for ranching, although one section is the location of the historical Kawana Springs Resort. The preserve’s highest point is approximately 1,300 feet and offers sweeping views of the Santa Rosa Plain, Bennett Valley and the Coast Ranges.
“We look forward to coming back to the Board to finalize the transfer of Taylor Mountain and opening a new county park,” said Caryl Hart, director of Regional Parks. “Taylor Mountain is the backdrop to Santa Rosa and a spectacular landscape, a place that generations to come will enjoy and appreciate.”
The master plan can be viewed at [sonomaopenspace.org]