The Sonoma Land Trust, perhaps the county's most outstanding land preservation group with a long and unmatched history, is eager and dedicated to preserving Sonoma Development Center land and maintaining the vital services that have been provided there for its population.
The Land Trust has joined with a coalition of other preservation groups including the Sonoma County Open Space District, Sonoma County Regional Parks Department, Sonoma Ecology Center, Sonoma Mountain Preservation and the Valley of the Moon Natural History Association.
The Land Trust has this to say: "At almost 1,000 acres, the Sonoma Developmental Center property is the largest and most significant unprotected land in the Sonoma Valley. In addition to providing services for developmentally disabled individuals, this property is situated at the heart of the Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor, a crucial passage for wildlife that extends over five miles from Sonoma Mountain to the Mayacamas Mountains and is at risk of being developed."
According to the Land Trust, the Coalition is working to:
; Retain the Sonoma Developmental Center services on the property and explore other appropriate uses within the footprint of the facilities.
; Advocate for the permanent protection of the open land on the Sonoma Development Center property and the essential services it provides, such as habitat and movement corridors for wildlife, clean and ample drinking water, a place of beauty for us to enjoy and carbon sequestration, among many others.
; Expand public access and recreation opportunities that are compatible with the protection of the property's conservation values, "including the development of new trails and connections to existing trails on Sonoma Mountain, and potentially across Sonoma Valley to the complex of protected lands within the Mayacamas Mountains."
The state has in the past and is currently looking to sell Sonoma Development Center and other regional developmental centers because it wants the money for these lands and not the expense of caring for the profoundly ill patients who inhabit these centers. In order for SDC to remain and maintain its current use, it would have to generate the revenue to do so without the state's aid. This is unfortunate, but it is the current reality.
What the community at large needs to do is join with the preservation organizations and come up with plans for how to make the Sonoma Development Center economically self-sustaining without selling some (any) of this precious natural resource to private development interests.
One idea might be for some of that land to be used as satellite campuses for either the Santa Rosa Junior College or Sonoma State University. It's a perfect college campus. Another idea would be to use some of the land for a teaching college or institution for the education and training of those who want to work in the mental health field.
There are any number of ideas for the disposition of some of these lands, which do not include selling one inch of it so that developers can gain more profits. To me that is the most important consideration.
Furthermore, the county could step up and purchase the adjoining land that abuts the regional park and expand it. What the Sonoma Valley community has to do is join forces with the land preservation groups cited here and protect and preserve the Developmental Center, its clients and its caretakers, and find viable ways in which to do so. That is our responsibility and obligation.