Healdsburg's Fitch Mountain summit to become park

  • Kevin Sprouse of Windsor, right, takes his dogs Lulu and Lily for an uphill walk on Fitch Mountain in Healdsburg, Saturday Dec. 8, 2012. At left is attorney Edwin Wilson representing the Francez LLC Owners Group. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2012

The top of Fitch Mountain, the scenic backdrop to Healdsburg, is set to be purchased for use as a park, capping a decade-long effort to preserve it for public access.

The city and the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District have struck a tentative agreement to buy and manage 199 acres of the mountaintop for recreation uses such as hiking and biking.

"Fitch Mountain is the crown jewel of the landscape surrounding the City of Healdsburg," said Mike McGuire, the county supervisor for the 4th district. He described it as "one of the most prominent landmarks found in north Sonoma County."

Mayor Gary Plass called it "a huge deal. It's something the community will be able to use forever."

Under terms of the agreement set to be finalized this week, the Open Space District will buy the land for $1.8 million, place a conservation easement over it and transfer ownership to the city.

In turn, Healdsburg will turn over the property temporarily to LandPaths, a local nonprofit agency that will help manage it.

Officials estimate it will take at least three years to develop a trail system and management plan and to grant full public access.

"It's not only great for recreation, it's going to be a good learning tool," Plass said. "It's got lots of microclimates and vegetation species I'm told are not found anywhere else. I think there will have a lot of educational value."

The City Council at 6 tonight is set to adopt a resolution approving the deal. The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday is set to do the same.

The eight parcels being purchased are owned by F.R.A.N.C.E.Z. LLC, a Delaware-based corporation represented by Healdsburg attorney Edwin Wilson.

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