Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District Transfers Ownership of Lawson Addition to Hood Mountain to Regional Parks

June 10, 2014 in News

Transfer will preserve habitat, expand public access and recreational activities

The Board of Supervisors, acting concurrently as directors of the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation & Open Space District, authorized today the transfer of fee title of the Lawson property, a 247-acre parcel adjacent to Hood Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve, from the District to Regional Parks subject to a conservation easement and recreation covenant. The District acquired the Lawson property in 2005 for $1,160,000 for open space preservation and low-intensity public outdoor recreational use as an addition to the adjacent Hood Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve. Acquisition of the Lawson property protected a prominent ridgeline visible from the Highway 12 scenic corridor, preserved native plant and animal habitats, and was intended to expand access opportunities and provide scenic vistas for park visitors.

The District’s conservation easement limits uses and activities on the property to natural resource protection and recreational and educational uses, and will require that any revenue generated on Lawson be spent on operating and maintaining the property. The recreation covenant requires the County to provide public access to the property in perpetuity.

In 2003, the District purchased the Johnson property and transferred it to the County as an addition to Hood Mountain to provide access to the Regional Park and Open Space Preserve from Pythian Road. Visitors will be able to access the Lawson property via the Pythian Road Trailhead and together, these additional properties provide significantly enhanced opportunities for recreation and habitat preservation in the Sonoma Valley.

“The addition of the Lawson property to Hood Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve will provide further community benefits at one of the county’s most popular and cherished parks,” said District 1 Supervisor Susan Gorin. “It will also fulfill the County’s goal to expand public recreational and educational opportunities in this area.”

Once the property is transferred to the County, it will be managed by Sonoma County Regional Parks, who is proposing to complete a planning process to design and construct improvements in order to provide public access on the property. Initial improvements will consist of an approximate 1.8-mile multiple-use trail connecting the Lawson addition to the existing Hood Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve, as well as resource protection measures. The District is providing the funds for these public access improvements, as well as funding for operations and maintenance costs over the next three years, for a total of $485,400. Additionally, Regional Parks will receive $100,000 donated by the landowner at the time of property acquisition.

The planning process will begin this fall and is anticipated to be completed in 2015, with construction of the connecting trail and resource protective measures expected to begin by spring of 2016. The planning process will also evaluate the feasibility of additional trails, interpretive facilities, environmental campsites, and possible public use of a cabin currently on site at the property.

“Sonoma County is so lucky to have the Open Space District to provide such an inspiring, wild place for the public to enjoy,” said Regional Parks Director Caryl Hart. “The Lawson property will be an entirely new opportunity to experience Hood Mountain. The future trail will be only a 15-minute drive from Santa Rosa and Sonoma and will offer a reasonably short hike to 360-degree views of the Sonoma Valley and beyond. At the top of the ridge is a bunkhouse that has the potential for backpacking stays. We can’t wait to open this new part of Hood Mountain to the public.”

“The District is pleased to transfer this critical piece of land to the County and Regional Parks to preserve open space and expand recreational opportunities,” said Bill Keene, the District’s General Manager. “The expansion of Hood Mountain will meet the future recreational needs of the county’s residents while preserving important biotic resource areas and scenic features, and protecting and enhancing the county’s natural habitats and diverse plant and animal communities.”

For more information, contact Regional Parks' Project Manager Karen Davis-Brown at (707) 565-1359 or karen.davis-brown@sonoma-county.org.

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