Ag + Open Space purchases 47-acre Mark West property

August 14, 2018

Posted in: Press Releases

Sonoma County Ag + Open Space Purchases 47-acre Property as Part of Future Regional Park & Open Space Preserve

District spends $1.6 million to conserve land for natural resources, recreation

SANTA ROSA, CA (August 14, 2018) – Yesterday the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District (Ag + Open Space) closed escrow on 47 acres of land owned by the Wendle family, paying $1,645,000 in public funds to purchase the property, which will become part of the future Mark West Creek Regional Park and Open Space Preserve. Acquisition of the Wendle property will preserve nearly a half-mile of Mill Creek and its riparian corridor, a mixed conifer and oak forest, and significant wildlife habitat including excellent steelhead habitat. The acquisition would add to the adjacent 1,098-acre Mark West Properties already purchased by Ag + Open Space, which will all combine to form a future 1,192-acre park and open space preserve, providing residents with a large and diversified natural area to enjoy close to the Santa Rosa urban area.

Staff at Ag + Open Space and Sonoma County Regional Parks (Regional Parks) had been working with the Wendle family for a few years to acquire the property for natural resource protection and recreational opportunities. In December 2016, the Board of Supervisors authorized Regional Parks to purchase the property for $2.5 million. However, prior to closing, the Tubbs Fire swept through the property, burning the pre-existing residence and barn. In February 2018, Ag + Open Space conducted a new appraisal to reflect the current property conditions, which resulted in a reduced value due to the loss of the structures.

“We are so thankful to the Wendle family for working with us to conserve their beautiful property,” said First District Supervisor and Ag + Open Space Director, Susan Gorin. “This land represents a key piece of the future Regional Park and Open Space Preserve, and soon our residents will be able to enjoy and explore it for many years to come.”

The property is a mix of grasslands, chaparral, and woodlands including oaks, Douglas fir, and redwood. Mill Creek runs along the eastern boundary of 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 is also adjacent to a cluster of properties totaling a little more than 1,000 acres already owned by Ag + Open Space. This new property will be added to the current cluster, in addition to one other potential property in the same area, to make up a future regional park and open space preserve.

The 1,192-acre cluster of properties also joins with two other properties protected with Ag + Open Space conservation easements and Pepperwood Preserve to the north. All these properties combine to form 4,500 acres of contiguous protected land, which provides valuable habitat and movement opportunities for fish and wildlife, beautiful scenic vistas, and a buffer around the urban areas northeast of Santa Rosa.

“We’ve been working with the families in this area for over 15 years to conserve this land forever,” said Ag + Open Space General Manager, Bill Keene. “And now we are close to joining together over 1,192 acres of protected land that preserves critical wildlife habitat, helps us be more resilient to future fires by creating a buffer around our urban areas, and will form an extraordinary park and open space preserve for the public to enjoy.”

With the close of escrow, Ag + Open Space will hold fee title to the 47 acres and will assume short-term responsibility for managing the land along with the 1,000 acres previously purchased. Ag + Open Space will continue to work toward acquiring the remaining nearby property of just over 46 acres, with the goal of transferring all 1,192 acres of land in this Mark West area to 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 Regional Park and Open Space 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 Wendle family for the protection of this unique and beautiful setting the public will love.”

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