Comments sought on Hood Mountain Regional expansion plan
Hood Mountain Regional Park is getting bigger and could be adding approximately four miles of new trails and four new “environmental” camping areas in the coming years, based on a proposed master plan put out for public comment this month by Sonoma County Regional Parks. Comments will be accepted through Oct. 11. Regional Parks hopes to present the master plan for approval by the Board of Supervisors this December.
The expansion study’s impetus was the transfer of approximately 247 acres of property known as the “Lawson addition” from the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District to Regional Parks in 2014. On the rugged west face of Hood Mountain, the Lawson addition contains oak woodlands, grasslands, mixed evergreen forest, and riparian chaparral/cypress woodland. A prominent ridgeline offers views of the Sonoma Valley. The property includes several special-status plants and significant cultural resources.
The draft master plan was developed with community input over a series of public workshops in 2015 and 2016. Most trails will be multi-use trails for hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians. Three short trails (half a mile or less) will be hiker-only. A new multi-use trail will come off of Lower Johnson Ridge Trail and connect to Hood Mountain Trail, with scenic vistas and a hiker-only loop in between.
Recreational opportunities include hiking, biking, horseback riding, picnicking, fishing, nature observation, and hike-in overnight stays by permit. The property includes the remains of an early 20th-century homestead associated with John Streiff. Streiff’s house is no longer standing, although evidence of his occupation remains. The most recent owners, Evelyn and Carl Lawson and Fritz Brand, ran cattle on the property until the Sonoma County Agricultural Open Space and Preservation District purchased it in 2005. A proposed bunkhouse and associated facilities for overnight stays would take advantage of the existing dilapidated barn and residence left on the property after the transfer. The existing barn would be removed and provide space for the backcountry horse trough, highline, and hitching post. The existing residence may be modified or demolished and rebuilt within the same footprint into a two-room bunkhouse with bunk beds and primitive, communal kitchen facilities. The bunkhouse would not have electricity, gas or running potable water, but motion sensor, dark-sky association compliant lighting at the porch and/or restroom may be installed for safety and security.
Three environmental campsites would be located off of the Lawson Camp Loop trail, in close proximity to the proposed two-room bunkhouse. The fourth environmental campsite would be located near Lawson’s Peak, off of the Lawson Peak Trail. All campsites would be primitive, hike-in-only sites with a picnic table, bear-resistant food locker and space for tent placement. Campfires would be prohibited. Dogs would be allowed at campsites provided they are accompanied by a human at all times and on a lead no longer than six feet.
Natural resource management includes over 100 acres not developed for recreation, removal of remnant debris, and restorative planting of native vegetation for neighbor screening and wildlife enhancement and to slow the spread of invasive species. The environmental study of the master plan found no significant adverse impacts.
Visit sonomacounty.ca.gov/Parks/Planning/Hood-Mountain-Lawson-Expansion-Master-Plan/ to view the draft. The study is also available most county libraries and will be presented at two upcoming meetings in Santa Rosa on Sept. 18, at 5 p.m., and Sept. 19, at 9 a.m. See website for locations. Public comments can be submitted in writing by 3 p.m. Oct. 11 to Karen Davis-Brown, 2300 County Center Dr., Ste. 120A, Santa Rosa, CA 95403 or firstname.lastname@example.org .