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PD Editorial: Opening open space shouldn't take 20 years

  • Seth, Kristen and Temesgen Schwebs and Steven Johansen hike along a trail overlooking Santa Rosa at the Taylor Mountain Open Space in Santa Rosa, Calif., on February 24, 2013. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

Sections of the newly opened Taylor Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve in Santa Rosa have been part of the public domain for nearly two decades. But they weren't available for the general public's unaccompanied enjoyment until Sunday.

With a ribbon-cutting and much fanfare, the 1,100-acre Taylor Mountain Park, with its panoramic views of Santa Rosa and environs, finally was made available to hikers, picnickers and other recreational users last weekend.

Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane called Taylor Mountain "a dream come true."

Taylor Mountain Open Space

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True enough. But it's a dream that took far too long to become a reality.

In an age of endless land-use battles and litigation, we understand why it can take decades to expand a highway, build a bridge or even build a railroad line. But 20 years to open an open space area to hikers?

The county's Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District purchased most of the acreage for the park between 1995 and 2005 for about $21 million. Progress came in 2010 when 820 acres of the park was opened to the public. But even then, access was limited to docent-led tours and to those who were willing to take an hour-long introductory course and get a permit from LandPaths.

Thankfully, the park — named after John Shackleford Taylor, a gold miner who came to Santa Rosa in 1853 to homestead — is now open to the general public, seven days a week from 8 a.m. to sunset. It can be accessed via a parking lot off of Kawanaa Terrace.

With its majestic views and bucolic oak-studded setting, Taylor Mountain Regional Park will long be cherished as a jewel in the crown of the county's open space offerings.

It's fair to say, that this is exactly the kind of recreational acquisition that Sonoma County voters envisioned when they approved the quarter-cent sales tax for open space in 1990 and extended it in 2006. The property is visible, it serves as a community separator and it's easily accessible — especially for residents of southwest Santa Rosa, who have had relatively little in the way of open space amenities.

But it's also fair to say that the public didn't expect it would have to wait 20 years to see this dream up close. We trust the wait won't be as long the next time.


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