Sonoma Valley's Lawson Ranch now a park

A Sonoma Valley ridge that offers panoramic views, oak woodlands and a cabin that may accommodate hikers is the newest addition to the Sonoma County Regional Parks system.

On clear days, the 360-degree view from the top of Divide Ridge takes in San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean, as well as the valley below, said Caryl Hart, Regional Parks director.

The ridge, at about 1,800 feet, marks the divide between the Santa Rosa Creek and Sonoma Creek watersheds, she said.

It's part of the 247-acre Lawson property, adjacent to Hood Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve on Highway 12 across from Oakmont. The property was just handed over to the parks system by the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District.

"It's a really big deal," Hart said, noting that the taxpayer-supported district is also providing $485,400 for improvements to the Lawson tract and operating costs over three years.

Regional Parks will receive an additional $100,000 donated by the Lawson family, she said.

The Lawson parcel will be added to Hood Mountain park, expanding it to nearly 2,000 acres, and will feature a 1.8-mile trail.

A rundown bunkhouse atop the ridge may be renovated to accommodate day hikers and overnight campers, becoming the first "environmental cabin" in the county parks system, Hart said.

With hike-in campgrounds already available, Hood Mountain affords a "wilderness experience" a short drive from Santa Rosa and Sonoma, she said.

"People have not discovered Hood yet," Hart said, noting that the park is lightly used.

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