At Jenner Headlands Preserve, work begins to provide public access

June 29, 2017

Posted in: News Articles

At Jenner Headlands Preserve, work begins to provide public access

Mary Callahan | The Press Democrat | June 28, 2017

Construction work is beginning next week on a parking lot, trailhead and other amenities needed to provide public access to the 5,630-acre Jenner Headlands Preserve, putting exploration of the coastal hillsides overlooking the Pacific Ocean nearly within reach of the average Joe. For free.

Still, it will be next spring before visitors are allowed unsupervised onto the rugged landscape that rises abruptly from the coastal shores just north of the Russian River estuary.

But the onset of work finally brings certainty to long-promised improvements like restrooms, parking and picnic sites that will make the headlands a viable sightseeing and hiking destination for the general public as well as a gateway to Sonoma County’s highest coastal peak, Pole Mountain, looming just beyond.

“It’s been one of the primary services that we all wanted to provide, is to see public access to this land and to Pole Mountain,” said Dave Koehler, executive director of the Sonoma Land Trust, which helped purchase both properties. Ownership of the Jenner Headlands Preserve has since been transferred to The Wildlands Conservancy, headquartered in San Bernardino County.

“It’s just exciting to see it come about,” Koehler said. “The Sonoma Coast is this rugged icon of California, and people are going to be able to experience it.”

Planned infrastructure includes parking spaces for 30 passenger vehicles and two school buses near the site of an asphalt turnout at the edge of the property, located about a mile and a half north of Jenner. A day-use area with picnic tables, restrooms and a kiosk containing information about the property, its conservation heritage, protected wildlife, biodiversity and management is part of the 6-acre so-called Gateway Project, as well.

A key feature of the $2.1 million plan, a paved 400-foot trail accessible by wheelchair, will ensure that everyone, no matter their abilities, can reach a scenic overlook providing views of rolling coastal prairie, pockets of redwood and Douglas fir, oak woodland and rock outcroppings, and the sea-stack-studded waters of the Pacific just below.

Bill Keene is general manager of the tax-funded Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, which put $10 million toward the $36 million purchase price of the Jenner Headlands and holds conservation easements over it and Pole Mountain.

He predicted the headlands preserve would become “one of the jewels of Sonoma County” once it’s accessible to visitors.

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