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Glen Ellen forum update – Sonoma Mountain

Glen Ellen forum update – Sonoma Mountain

Featuring three takes on iconic Sonoma Mountain

By Jay Gamel

Tworking with experts to monitor mountain lion movements in the area.

John McCaull spoke about what’s been happening at the Sonoma Land Trust (SLT), for which he acquires properties as the Land Acquisition Director. At the top of his list is the looming acquisition of the 200-acre Fitzsimmons Ranch, which will provide a critical link in the Mayacamas wildlife corridor, as well as great views of Sonoma Mountain just across the valley floor.

Closer to Sonoma Mountain, the SLT acquired 175 acres of undeveloped woodland along Bennett Valley Rd., which skirts the base of the mountain on the northern end. It will be part of the connection between Annadel State Park and the North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park, and will itself become part of the county park system.

On the south side of Sonoma Mountain, SLT is working to acquire conservation easements over the 700-acre Felder Ranch, which includes a big swath of both Rogers and Felder Creeks. The property will stay in private ownership and continue ranching and agricultural pursuits. The acquisition was made possible by the fortunate funding generated by the construction of the Trinity Rd. turn lane on Hwy. 12 near Glen Ellen.

The Glen Ellen Forum will meet next on Monday, May 3, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. For more information, visit or email [email protected]

hose who attended the April 5 Glen Ellen Forum meeting were treated to three takes on the iconic Sonoma Mountain from people intimately connected with it: Sonoma Mountain Preservation Board Chair Meg Beeler, Jack London State Historic Park Executive Director Matt Leffert, and Sonoma Land Trust Land Acquisition Director John McCaull. As a group, they presented the state of the mountain as no others could, with slides of the incredible views of the Bay Area few people ever experience. Sonoma Mountain Preservation has actively sought to protect the mountain as well as make it available to the public. Beeler presented a series of slides offering views of Mt. Diablo, Mt. Tamalpais, San Francisco, San Pablo Bay and views from Santa Rosa to Petaluma to the west, and the Mayacamas range to the east. Views of the Bay Area Ridge Trail portion showed a profusion of wildflowers, including lupines and poppies. “We have been advocating protection for 30 years,” Beeler said. During that time, the group brokered the transfer of 600 acres of Sonoma Developmental Center open lands to the Jack London State Historic Park in 2002, helped resolve conflicts between the city of Petaluma and landowners adjacent to the city-owned Lafferty Park (recently resolved to allow public access), helped to acquire a portion of the Ridge Trail in 2014, and brought several private properties into the North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve, which is now nearing formal dedication as a county park. These are the highlights of the many efforts the group has made.

“We have to work a long time to make anything happen,” Beeler said. “You have to have a lot of patience.”

Beeler contributed to Arthur Dawson’s book, “Where the World Begins: Sonoma Mountain Stories and Images,” which takes a deep look at the history and archaeology of the threepart geological fold that comprises the mountain.

Guided hikes around the mountain will resume as COVID-19 restrictions abate.

As the new executive director of Jack London State Historic Park, Matt Leffert had no idea, a year ago, that both a pandemic and wildfire would severely impact public use of the internationally known park and former working ranch of one of the world’s most beloved authors. Even so, the park has thrived, attracting over 70,000 visitors last year.

“In the 2020 peak months, visitation was up 25 percent over 2019,” Leffert said. “And 2021 is up over 50 percent from 2020.” He attributes much of the attendance gains to people’s overwhelming desire to get outside after being cooped up for so long. “Visitors love the place,” Leffert said.

Volunteers continue to be the backbone workforce for the private, nonprofit Jack London Park Partners, who operate the park in a unique relationship that developed when the state park system was faced with possible closure of 20 parks, including Jack London. Volunteers put in nearly 7,000 hours, doing everything from collecting money at the entrance kiosk, to staffing the museum, maintaining trails, and keeping the whole organization operating smoothly.

During 2020, Leffert instigated “Take Five with Jack London,” a series of short video presentations on London’s life and times. A vigorous program of vegetation management was started with grant money from CalFire, and a composting program was set up to process all the vegetation being removed to save the cost of hauling it away to a landfill. Park volunteers are monitoring the nesting of a pair of endangered northern spotted owls, keeping visitors, heavy machinery, and other disturbances to a minimum.

The park has done at least one prescribed burn and will do more as conditions permit. They are also