Hikers are being promised that one day they will be able to stride across the picturesque hills of what is now a 122-acre private ranch in the hills northeast of Santa Rosa.

The state Coastal Conservancy last week awarded $750,000 toward the $1 million purchase of the historic Doerksen Ranch on St. Helena Road.

LandPaths, a nonprofit conservation group, will raise the remaining $250,000 and eventually will own and manage the property as an open space preserve, said LandPaths Executive Director Craig Anderson.

The Doerksens have owned the ranch on mountainous, redwood-studded terrain astride Mark West Creek since 1967 and have allowed access to about a dozen groups.

The ranch is near Saddle Mountain Open Space Preserve, a Sonoma County-owned property that also is planned to be opened for public access.

LandPaths hopes to raise another $1.2 million to renovate an 1830s barn that is being used as classroom space, as well as provide other public facilities.

— Bob Norberg