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Supervisors OK Taylor Mountain transfer to parks department

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved the transfer of the 1,100-acre open space on Taylor Mountain overlooking Santa Rosa to the county's Regional Parks Department.

The transfer comes before the property's scheduled opening to the general public on Feb. 23.

The park is one of the largest to be added in the county in decades. It has been on the drawing board for nearly two decades, and supervisors welcomed Tuesday's move as another major step in its realization.

"This is a huge deal," said Supervisor Shirlee Zane, who represents the area. She called the preserve, which has expansive grass hillsides, dense oak groves and sweeping views of the Santa Rosa Plain, the "gem" of her district, which includes much of Santa Rosa and also Rohnert Park.

The county Open Space District purchased most of the acreage in separate parcels between 1995 and 2005 for $21 million. About 820 acres of the preserve has been open to the public since 2010 under a permit program operated by LandPaths, a Santa Rosa-based nonprofit conservation group.

The park blueprint, approved last year, calls for 17 miles of trails for use by hikers, equestrians and cyclists, camping and picnic sites, five trailheads with restrooms and future plans for a visitor center, small event venue and an eight-room inn, given interest from a private partner. Park development is to be on the periphery, which stretches from Petaluma Hill Road to Bennett Valley. The core of the preserve is to be kept wild.

The transfer comes with $225,000 from the Open Space District to help cover three years of operations and maintenance costs.

Construction on the first phase of improvements, including the main trailhead and staging area off Petaluma Hill Road, is set to begin this summer. The work is funded by a $750,000 state grant.

In the interim, the main point of public access will continue to be a trailhead off Kawana Terrace.

You can reach Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or brett.wilkison@pressdemocrat.com.


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