Santa Rosa, CA – November 9, 2020 – Sonoma County Regional Parks has acquired more than 500 acres in Monte Rio through a collaborative effort to preserve critical coastal range forest and create a diverse trail system in what will be the first regional park for this part of the county.
The 515 acres purchased from the local Torr family in October are south of the Russian River, at the southern edge of Monte Rio. The acquisition includes three sections of land: one section is west of Main Street generally between Schoolhouse Gulch and Tyrone Road; one section is along Dutch Bill Creek between Main Street and Bohemian Highway; and one section is east of Bohemian Highway.
The future county park and open space preserve – yet to be named – will create hiking, biking and outdoor education opportunities for Monte Rio and nearby Bohemian Highway communities like Camp Meeker, Tyrone and Occidental, areas relatively lacking in public wilderness parks and trails.
The three sections of new parkland will offer distinct experiences for future visitors. On the forested hillsides west of Main Street, former logging roads could serve as the initial hiking and biking trails, with singletrack trails added later. The flat section along Dutch Bill Creek could include walking paths among redwoods and a Class 1 bike trail parallel to Main Street. The section east of Bohemian Highway could provide access to a unique landscape of redwoods and Sargent’s cypress.
“The scope and size of this property is ecologically significant and will help preserve the special rural and natural character of West Sonoma County for residents, businesses, visitors and future generations,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, whose 5th District encompasses the Dutch Bill Creek watershed. “Conserving this property also is a critical step toward a larger vision of linking river communities and recreation areas, giving residents and visitors alike greater access to these places.”
The Board of Supervisors in August approved Regional Park’s purchase of the property for $3.9 million.
“It's not every day a community gets new parkland right out its back door,” said Sonoma County Regional Parks Director Bert Whitaker. “We are thrilled to begin working with Monte Rio residents and neighbors to plan and develop their first regional park, and we’re grateful to the Torr family and our funding partners for sharing in this vision. All communities need access to safe, low-cost outdoor recreation opportunities, something the pandemic has made abundantly clear.”
Key to the acquisition funding was the use of local monies to leverage nearly $1.4 million in state and federal grants. Funding sources include $2.1 million from Sonoma County Agriculture Preservation and Open Space District (Ag + Open Space); $954,028 recommended by State Parks from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund; $500,000 from the California Coastal Conservancy; $300,000 in local Measure M parks sales tax funds; and $45,972 in park mitigation fees.
“The Torr property contributes to an area of high environmental integrity,” said Lisa Ames, project manager with the California Coastal Conservancy. “Conservation of this intact habitat provides opportunities to protect a diversity of wildlife, a continuous wildlife corridor, and redwood coastal forest, all critical resources of statewide significance and whose health will, in turn, benefit the health of local communities and all who visit."
Sonoma Ag + Open Space’s contribution went toward the purchase of the rugged section west of Main Street, 315 acres that feature redwoods and oak woodland, some special status plant and animal species, and streams that flow into Dutch Bill Creek, a major tributary of the Russian River. Ag + Open Space will maintain a conservation easement over this section to ensure protection of its natural habitats and scenic landscapes while allowing for compatible public recreational use. The agency also committed $250,000 to support initial public access and the first three years of land management.
“We are excited to partner with Regional Parks to help conserve the unique natural features of the Torr property, which also will offer expanded opportunities for public recreation,” said Ag + Open Space General Manager Bill Keene. “The redwood forests on this new parkland have great potential for long-term stewardship and will offer locals and visitors a place to experience the beauty and peace of nature.”
Planning for the park’s opening will begin in early 2021, a process that typically takes three to five years to complete and involves extensive community outreach. In addition to hiking and biking, future public uses could include horseback riding, picnicking and nature study. Some initial public access could begin as soon as spring 2021.
EDITORS: Find high-resolution photos and a map at https://flic.kr/s/aHsmRBXENX. Please use "Courtesy of Sonoma County Parks" as a photo credit where appropriate.
About Sonoma County Regional Parks
The Sonoma County Regional Parks system includes 56 parks, beaches and trails. Regional Parks preserves natural and cultural resources and offers opportunities for recreation and education that enhance the quality of life and well-being of residents and visitors.