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For Immediate Release

New gathering area breaks ground at Tolay Lake Regional Park

Community space co-designed for cultural and environmental education

March 12, 2024

Sonoma County, CA – Last month’s groundbreaking on a public gathering area at Tolay Lake Regional Park marks a significant milestone in the park’s development and highlights the unique co-management agreement between Sonoma County Regional Parks and the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.

Regional Parks and the Tribe are co-managing the 3,400-acre park southeast of Petaluma, a partnership thought to be the first of its kind in California between a local government and a federally recognized tribe. The construction of the gathering area is the first major infrastructure project under this agreement.

Located next to the park’s group picnic site, the 1.5-acre gathering area will feature terraced seating and an open-air stage with views overlooking seasonal Tolay Lake and the park beyond. ADA-accessible pathways will wind through landscaping featuring plants of cultural significance to the Tribe.

“This beautiful Coast Miwok landscape will provide a place for all people to celebrate events and learn about nature. We're pleased to work with Sonoma County Parks to create an accessible gathering place that reflects our Native American traditions of sharing stories and meeting with our community," stated Greg Sarris, Chairman, Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.

Set to open this fall, the gathering area is envisioned as a central spot for community events, celebrations, and cultural and environmental learning.

"This project is a testament to our collective commitment to conserving Sonoma County's natural beauty, acknowledging our rich cultural heritage, and enhancing the quality of life for all residents,” said Board of Supervisors Chair David Rabbitt, whose 2nd District encompasses part of the park.

In keeping with the co-management agreement, the gathering area was co-designed with the Tribe, and pays homage to Tolay Lake as the Tribe’s sacred site. Once one of Sonoma County’s largest freshwater lakes and a destination for tribal ceremonies and healing, Tolay Lake and the surrounding land continue to be recognized for its cultural and ecological values.

Construction of the gathering area kicks off the park’s multi-phase master plan implementation, aimed at developing interpretative facilities, restoring natural ecosystems and enhancing trails. Co-management  embodies a collective commitment to honor the Tribe’s and Sonoma County's heritage as well safeguarding its natural and cultural resources.

"Once the gathering area is complete, we encourage the community to join us for a guided program or a walk along the trails to deepen their connection with the land and its history,” said Regional Parks Director Bert Whitaker. "This area is designed as a place for everyone to gather, learn, celebrate and cultivate a collective responsibility for the park.”

The $1.86 million construction contract was awarded to EF Brett and Company and is funded through contributions from the Tribe ($1.5 million), state grants ($593,000), a matching grant from the Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation ($80,000), park mitigation fees and Measure M – Parks for All, the local sales tax measure that supports Sonoma County’s parks.

During construction, the group picnic area, Cardoza Road Trail and a portion of West Ridge Trail will be closed, and equestrian parking is available in the main parking lot. Tolay Lake Regional Park is located at 5869 Cannon Lane, Petaluma. For more information, visit



Media Contacts:
Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria
Brianne Miller
Landis Communications
(650) 575-7727

Sarah Phelps, Marketing Specialist
Sonoma County Regional Parks
(707) 331-9027


About the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria
Graton Rancheria is a federally recognized Indian tribe comprised of Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo Indians. Legislation restoring federal recognition to the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria was signed into law in December 2000. Tribal lands are located in Rohnert Park, Sonoma County, CA.For more information, visit


About Sonoma County Regional Parks

Sonoma County Regional Parks provides essential opportunities for people to connect with nature. We contribute to the vibrancy and well-being of our community by expanding access to recreation experiences, serving as responsible stewards of cultural and natural resources, and ensuring that our parks are clean, safe and welcoming. Learn more at