Ag + Open Space to Purchase 275.5-acre Property as Part of Future Regional Park & Open Space Preserve

Ag + Open Space to Purchase 275.5-acre Property as Part of Future Regional Park & Open Space Preserve

June 11, 2018

Posted in: Press Releases

Ag + Open Space to Purchase 275.5-acre Property as Part of Future Regional Park & Open Space Preserve

Board approves up to $5.35 million to conserve land for natural resources, recreation

SANTA ROSA, CA (May 23, 2018) – Yesterday the Board of Directors for the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District (Ag + Open Space) approved up to $5.35 million in public funds to purchase 275.5 acres of land off Mark West Spring Road in the Mark West Creek watershed.

Ag + Open Space is currently working to secure grant funding from two sources to leverage our local sales tax dollars: the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a division of the National Park Service that provides matching grants to local governments to acquire and develop public recreation areas ($2,485,000), and Habitat Conservation Fund, a grant program of the California Department of Parks and Recreation ($160,000). If Ag + Open Space receives the grant funding, the agency will only spend $2.7 million to acquire the property – roughly half the appraised value.

By purchasing this property, currently owned by the McCullough family, Ag + Open Space will preserve a half-mile of Mill Creek and its riparian corridor, expansive scenic views, and significant wildlife habitat for endangered Coho salmon and steelhead trout. The property is also adjacent to a cluster of properties totaling 822 acres already owned by Ag + Open Space. This new property will be added to the current cluster, in addition to two other potential properties in the same area, to make up a future regional park and open space preserve – a natural resource and recreational gem that could total over 1,191 acres just a short drive from central Santa Rosa.

“Protecting this portion of the Mark West Creek watershed is critical not only for its valuable habitat and scenic views, but also the incredible recreational opportunities here,” said First District Supervisor and Ag + Open Space Director, Susan Gorin. “Our residents love to get outside to hike, bike, and ride horses, and this property provides more space for the public to do just that.”

This beautiful property is a mix of grasslands, chaparral, and woodlands including oaks, Douglas fir, and redwood. Two long ridges are separated by a valley that contains a large meadow and Mill Creek, which runs for a half-mile through the property until it flows into Mark West Creek – a major tributary to the Russian River and a critical waterway for endangered Coho salmon and steelhead trout. The property also boasts an extensive multi-use road and trail system that many equestrian groups have used over the years. The trails are generally well-designed and maintained, and could be used for the public park.

“We’ve been working with the McCullough family for over 15 years to help them conserve their land forever,” said Ag + Open Space General Manager, Bill Keene. “We purchased a portion of their property in 2002 and have been in conversations with the family ever since to protect their remaining land. We’re honored now to be able to join their land together with other properties in the area to form an extraordinary park and open space preserve for the public to enjoy.”

At the close of escrow, Ag + Open Space will hold fee title to the 275.5 acres and will assume short-term responsibility for managing the land along with the 822 acres previously purchased. Ag + Open Space will continue to work toward acquisition of two nearby properties totaling just under 100 acres, with the goal of transferring all 1,191 acres of land in this Mark West area to Sonoma County Regional Parks later this year. Upon transfer, Ag + Open Space will hold a conservation easement and recreation covenant over the entire complex of properties.

“The preservation of this property and the vision for a Mark West preserve are wonderful examples of the partnerships that enhance our parks system,” said Sonoma County Regional Parks Director Bert Whitaker. “We’re grateful to Ag + Open Space and the McCullough family for the protection of this unique and beautiful setting the public will love.”

“It will take time to open the eventual park and open space preserve, especially given that these properties burned in last year’s fires,” added Keene. “But it will certainly be worth the wait.”

About Sonoma County Ag + Open Space
Sonoma County Ag + Open Space permanently protects the diverse agricultural, natural resource and scenic open space lands of Sonoma County for future generations. The district is responsible for the perpetual protection of over 114,000 acres of land throughout our region. These agricultural and open space lands are protected through a quarter-cent sales tax approved by voters in 1990 and reauthorized in 2006. For more information, please visit www.sonomaopenspace.org.

###