North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park Opens February 14

February 12, 2015 in News

North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park & Open Space Preserve opens to the public Saturday, Feb. 14. The 820-acre park southeast of Santa Rosa features a 4-mile Bay Area Ridge Trail connection to Jack London State Historic Park. The trail climbs to nearly 2,000 feet on the north face of the mountain, leading hikers across creeks and forests and offering stunning views of Sonoma County.

This addition to the Regional Parks system provides the first public access to the north side of Sonoma Mountain, one of the county's defining landforms. It includes the headwaters of two branches of Matanzas Creek, the only remaining coast redwood groves on the mountain’s north slope, large areas of continuous oak woodlands, and a vernal pool with a rare buttercup plant species. It also supports the Sonoma Valley wildlife corridor, providing habitat for mountain lions, bobcats, golden eagles, western pond turtles, and other animals.

The site is comprised of six properties, five of which were acquired by the voter-funded Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation & Open Space District over the past decade and transferred to Regional Parks last year by the Board of Supervisors.

“We are thrilled that this day has arrived,” said Board Chairwoman Susan Gorin, whose First District includes the park. “North Slope Mountain provides spectacular views and access to a rare and wonderful landscape.”

Before the transfer, the District and Regional Parks collaborated with the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council, the California Coastal Conservancy and California State Parks to build the Ridge Trail segment and a parking area. The segment is a standout among county trails due to its quality design and through-hiking opportunities. When combined with Jack London’s existing and new trail segments, Sonoma Mountain now has about 9 miles of Bay Area Ridge Trail.

“We are so excited to be part of this trail network," said Regional Parks Director Caryl Hart. "In addition to great hiking, North Sonoma Mountain gives residents and visitors a chance to better understand a Sonoma County landmark and is a testament to the vision of local voters and the planning and collaboration of our partners.”

The trail begins in the ferns and redwoods on the south fork of Matanzas Creek, then weaves up through forests of oaks and bay laurels and fields of native grasses. Hikers are treated to sweeping views of the Santa Rosa Plain and coastal range to the west, Taylor and Bennett Mountains and Mt. Saint Helena to the north, and Hood Mountain and Sugarloaf Ridge to the east.

“Connecting the Ridge Trail across Sonoma Mountain is a tremendous accomplishment and a significant boost toward our goal of about 50 continuous miles in Sonoma County,” said Bay Area Ridge Trail Executive Director Janet McBride. “And the trail itself is absolutely world class – it will knock your socks off.”

Additional trails include a wheelchair-accessible vista point above the park entrance and the Umbrella Tree Trail, a .75-mile trail to a lone bay tree and picnic spot with views of Santa Rosa and Bennett Valley. Park picnic options also include several creekside tables in the redwood grove at the Ridge Trail footbridge.

The park will be open daily from sunrise to sunset. Trails are open to hikers, horseback riders, and mountain bikers, though bike use on the Ridge Trail is limited to the first 2 miles. At this time, dogs are not allowed on trails.

A master planning process is expected to begin this year to gather feedback on the park's future uses and management. The process will consider how existing amenities are used, whether new features can be developed and how natural resources are managed. Any future trails would be developed based on master plan recommendations.

As part of the land transfer, the District holds a conservation easement that generally limits park activities to protect natural resources. Compatible recreational and educational uses and grazing are allowed. The District also holds a recreation covenant that ensures the county provide public access to the property in perpetuity.

“This project began more than 10 years ago with a vision to protect one of the most prominent landscapes in Sonoma County, and now we have a spectacular backcountry trail that stretches across Sonoma Mountain for residents and visitors to enjoy,” said District General Manager Bill Keene. “A project of this scale would not have succeeded without the incredible collaboration of all the partners involved, and the District is proud to have been a part of it.”

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