Kenwood Press

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News: 08/15/2014

Acquisition will expand Sonoma Valley Regional Park

Plans are in the works to add 29 acres to Sonoma Valley Regional Park in Glen Ellen, increasing recreational activities as well as aiding in the protection of an important habitat corridor.

“Anytime you can add to a park that’s so popular and gets used a lot is a great thing,” said Caryl Hart, Director of Sonoma County Regional Parks, who explained that the property also adds a “critical piece” to the Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor.

The Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor provides habitat linkages from Sonoma Mountain across Sonoma Creek and the valley floor, then east to the top of the Mayacamas Mountains.

The property in question belongs to the Curreri family and is adjacent to the Sonoma Valley Regional Park.

The park is currently 168 acres, accessed from either Sonoma Hwy. or Arnold Dr., and has hiking, biking and horseback riding trails, as well as a picnic area and a dog park.

The Sonoma Land Trust currently has a purchase agreement for $1.1 million with the Curreri family. When that deal is closed, the Land Trust will assign the deed over to Sonoma County Regional Parks. As part of the process, the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District will acquire a conservation easement and what’s known as a “recreation covenant” on the 29 acres. The conservation easement restricts development on the property to park-related uses like trails, picnic tables, and restrooms.

The 29 acres is presently undeveloped, with oak woodlands, grassland, seasonal wetlands, and a pond. There are already existing trails on the property that connect to trails in Sonoma Valley Regional Park.

A six-acre lot will be retained by the Curreris on the Garric Ave. side of the property. The Curreris currently have a residence on the property.

The Open Space District is contributing $526,500 towards the purchase price, and the Sonoma Land Trust has secured a matching grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation for the balance of the cost. The foundation has provided a total of $1.8 million to help the Sonoma Land Trust work to protect and enhance the wildlife corridor.

In addition, Sonoma County Regional Parks is asking Open Space for a $77,613 funding agreement over a three-year period to help prepare the property for public access as well as for county operations and maintenance. Activities would include improving existing trails, turning an existing road into a trail, signage, vegetation management, and park patrols.

The purchase agreement for the Curreri property expires at the end of October, so the easement cost, recreation covenant, and funding agreement between Parks and Open Space is due to go to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors earlier that month.

In order for the county to acquire the property and allow expansion of the park, as well as create the six-acre lot for the Curreris, there needs to be a lot line adjustment, zone change and General Plan Amendment. These have already been applied for, and need to be approved by the supervisors as well.

John McCaull, land acquisition project manager with the Sonoma Land Trust, praised the Curreri family for opting to make a deal that will forever protect an important piece of property.

“These are choices a lot of families face in Sonoma County,” said McCaull. “What to do when you have a valuable piece of land that has development potential for estate homes or vineyards.”

McCaull said that the Curreris had other offers, but in the end considered the sale a “legacy issue” for their family.

The Sonoma Land Trust has worked successfully with private landowners and public agencies to acquire a number of properties in the Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor. Sonoma County’s General Plan identifies the corridor as one of two important linkages with significant natural habitats and connectivity needing to be maintained.

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