The 48-acre Soda Springs Reserve became a Sonoma County park in 1994. However, local residents had been using several acres as a park for nearly a century.
The Stibi family homesteaded the site in the 1880's and operated the "Soda Springs Campground." The property was sold in 1910 to Wheeler Timber Company, with the Stibi family continuing as campground caretakers until 1949.
The Paul B. Kelly family then purchased the land. Mrs. Kelly in 1955 dedicated the small "park" area to the Annapolis community in memory of her late husband. The area was called Kelly Park from then on. Mrs. Kelly built two stone fireplaces and installed a picnic table. Local citizens were grateful and were assured the park would remain forever. However, unknown to anyone at the time, the property was never officially deeded to the Annapolis community.
Mrs. Kelly in 1969 sold the larger 285-acre parcel, which included the park property, to Molalla Forest Products. Molalla sold it to Masonite Lumber Company in 1970, and Masonite sold it to Longview Fibre Company in 1977. Locals continued to use the small park area with the understanding it was their park.
Longview Fibre Company filed a timber harvest plan in 1985 outlining its intent to log old-growth redwoods within the park site. The Annapolis community became aware of the proposed logging when the majestic redwoods were tagged with blue ribbons. The Committee to Preserve Kelly Park formed and protested the harvest plan. Research revealed that the park site was indeed owned by Longview and was not a public park.
The Committee contacted the Save the Redwoods League in an effort to preserve the park. As a result, Longview Fibre did not log the property, and sold the parcel in 1988 to R and J Lumber (now known as Coastal Forestlands, Ltd.) Coastal Forestlands and Save the Redwoods League agreed the League would purchase 48 acres, which included the park site, from funds bequeathed to the League by Ira Higgins, and the League would donate the park to the County of Sonoma.
Prior to accepting the site, the County had to subdivide the 48 acres from the main parcel, amend the General Plan, rezone the property and perform a hazardous materials study. Finally, in 1994, deeds were recorded granting Sonoma County Regional Parks the timber and the land to use as a public park in perpetuity. Deed restrictions provide that no live trees be cut unless they are a hazard to human safety. At the request of the Annapolis Historical Society, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors named the park "Soda Springs Reserve". The redwood grove was named the "Ira Higgins Memorial Grove."
The grassroots efforts of the Annapolis community saved the park. Sonoma County Regional Parks deeply appreciates the hard work and cooperation of the Committee to Preserve Kelly Park, the Annapolis Historical Society, the Save-the-Redwoods League, and Coastal Forestlands, Ltd.