Sonoma County's Regional Parks Department has received a $1 million state grant to help purchase 297 acres in the Mark West Creek watershed north of Santa Rosa.
The land is eyed for a future park and open space preserve, along with 800 acres the county has already purchased in the area.
The proposed 1,100 park, off Porter Creek Road, takes in grasslands, oak woodlands and creeks that flow into the Russian River and offer spawning grounds for steelhead trout and coho salmon.
About $8 million is needed to complete the final land purchase. With the new grant, county park officials estimated they have raised about $2 million.
Other grant applications could bring in about $5 million, said Sonoma County Regional Parks Director Caryl Hart.
The area has "great ecological value" and "all the features of a perfect park," Hart said in a written statement. "The grant brings us one step closer to sharing this site with the public."
The county hopes to purchase the 297 acres by the end of next year. The land is part of the McCullough and Cresta ranches, which also factored in the previous county acquisitions.
The county's taxpayer-funded Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District purchased 340 acres of the Cresta property in 2007 and 461 acres of the McCullough property in 2009 for a total of $14 million. Guided tours of the land are available through the Open Space District.
The district, the Regional Parks department and the nonprofit Sonoma Land Trust, which submitted the grant application, are all working together on the project.
After the final purchase, opening the park could be three to four years away, Hart said. The interim period would allow for planning and time for an owner currently living on the property to relocate, she said.
The ranches border protected lands to the north and their purchase would create a contiguous 4,500-acre wildlife corridor stretching from the Mayacamas Mountains to Mark West Creek and its tributaries.
The $1 million state grant was funded by Proposition 84, approved by voters in 2006, which provides money for projects to protect and restore areas along streams and provide public access.
You can reach Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or email@example.com.