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News: 05/15/2017

Developing a vision for North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park



A crowd of almost 50 turned out to give their input on the master plan under development for the new North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park. The park officially opened to the public in February 2015, after the 820-acre property was transferred from the Sonoma County Open Space District to Regional Parks. A master plan helps manage a long-range vision while protecting the conservation values of a property. It includes, but is not limited to, trail alignment, recreation uses, and natural resource conservation considerations. The park has two official trails, but a master plan was never developed and Regional Parks is now looking to the public to see what they would like as they move forward in the development process.

And the public was ready to share at the April 27 meeting at the Bennett Valley Guild Hall. The hottest topic for the assembled crowd was whether or not the park and trails should be open to dogs. Currently, every Regional Park in Sonoma County, with the exception of Shiloh, allows leashed dogs on its trails (State Parks do not), but a study about whether to allow dogs (or not) was never performed before the transfer of the North Sonoma Mountain property. Therefore, North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park currently doesn’t allow users to bring their dogs. Park officials heard from impassioned people on both sides of the issue. Some voiced safety concerns about hiking alone without their dogs, and others voiced their safety concerns about hiking when others have dogs on the trail.

Outgoing Regional Parks Director Caryl Hart said the issue could be something considered as the park moves through the master planning process, and encouraged those who felt strongly to provide their written feedback to planning staff. Hart will be retiring from Regional Parks in June. Incoming Director Bert Whitaker was also present at the meeting.

Another topic of interest was where to locate future camping facilities. Regional Park staff identified five possible areas where campsites could be developed, both near the current parking lot and near the summit of Sonoma Mountain. The campsite envelopes could be developed as hike-in campsites, group campsites, or picnic areas. Some in attendance took issue with the fact that the current camping envelopes were located against the outside boundaries of the park, one within 250 feet of a residence. Neighbors said they feared being able to hear campers “singing into the night,” or having campers trespass on their property.

Regional Park staff stressed that all public feedback will be reviewed as the park goes through the master plan process. “We do not know yet what the outcome of this will be,” said Steve Ehret, parks planning manager. There will be another public input meeting this summer, followed by a formal environmental review, with the draft master plan expected to go before the Board of Supervisors next spring.

Other decisions to be made by planning staff include what to do (if anything) with two houses, three barns, a large storage shed, and a small woodshed already in existence on the property, and where to put future trails, especially those that will climb to the top of Sonoma Mountain. A cell tower already sits on the top of the mountain.

For more details and meeting summary, visit parks.sonomacounty.ca.gov/About_Us/Planning_Updates.aspx. Questions can be directed to park planner Karen Davis-Brown at Karen.davis-brown@sonoma.county.orgor 565-1359.



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