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Measure M dollars fund new Hood Mountain trail


By Tracy Salcedo

Hood Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve remains closed in the wake of the Glass Fire, which torched about 80% of the park’s 2,000 acres, but when it reopens, there will be a new trail to explore.

The 2-mile-long Lawson Trail was built using funds generated by Measure M— Parks for All, a one-eighth-cent sales tax passed by Sonoma County voters in Nov.

2018 to bolster funding for open space and regional parks over the next 10 years.

According to a report presented to the county Board of Supervisors on Jan. 26, more than $12.4 million was raised to “expand and improve” parks in both unincorporated areas and nine cities over fiscal year 2019-2020. Sonoma County Regional Parks was allocated $8.3 million, and in addition to completing the Lawson Trail, also funded the Cooper Creek expansion at Taylor Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve, on the west-facing flanks of Sonoma Mountain in southeast Santa Rosa, and improvements to wildlife areas at Tolay Lake Regional Park, at the southern end of the Sonoma Mountain range outside Petaluma.

Measure M funds were also used to conduct a prescribed burn in Sonoma Valley Regional Park in 2020, which reduced fuels along the park’s Highway 12 frontage and helped control the proliferation of invasive species. Additionally, the controlled burn offered a chance to train park employees in wildland firefighting skills and bolster collaboration with CalFire, the state’s forestry and wildland firefighting agency.

The multi-use Lawson Trail explores the 247-acre Lawson Addition on the west side of Hood Mountain Park. The route, which reaches a high point of 2,000 feet, offers “ridgeline vistas of the Napa hills on one side and, on the other, the Santa Rosa Plain, Sonoma Valley and—sometimes—San Francisco Bay,” according to an article written by Sonoma County Regional Parks marketing specialist Sarah Phelps in August 2020, which is posted on the park’s website.

The blog post also offers pictures of what you would have seen along the path if you’d been lucky enough to visit before the Glass Fire, which ignited on Sept. 27, 2020, and left little time to travel the trail before the park’s shutdown. The route traverses a landscape that has been double-burned, as much of Hood Mountain was also torched by the Nuns Fire in 2017. When it reopens, the new trail will offer insights into fire ecology and fire recovery, in addition to stellar views and a vigorous walk.

The trail is accessed from Hood Mountain’s Pythian Road trailhead via the Lower Johnson Ridge Trail. Total mileage, out and back, from the trailhead is about 6 miles.

The Measure M 2019-2020 annual report can be downloaded from the Sonoma County Regional Parks website at parks. The Hood Mountain Regional Park site, with links to maps and information about the Lawson Trail, is at parks.sonomacounty. Preserve.

The Lower Johnson Ridge Trail outside the closed gate to Hood Mountain Regional Park is obscured by litter from the Glass Fire. This trail leads to the new Lawson Trail, which was constructed using Measure M funds.Photo by Tracy Salcedo