Shiloh Ranch Regional Park will reopen to the public Saturday, far earlier than expected in the immediate aftermath of the October firestorm that blackened most of the park near Windsor.
The 860-acre woodland preserve, though not recovered from the devastating Tubbs fire, is in sufficiently good shape to allow the public to enjoy its trails and views amid sunny winter weather, parks officials said. Extensive efforts were made to stabilize slopes and clear hazard trees after the fires, said Melanie Park, natural resources manager for Sonoma County Regional Parks.
“It’s such beautiful weather, and we’ve done a lot of work,” she said. “We decided, ‘Let’s let the public in.’”
Shiloh Ranch was one of three county parks burned in the massive inferno that scorched Sonoma County and neighboring North Bay counties Oct. 8 and 9, killing 40 people and destroying 6,200 homes across the region. Several state parks suffered significant damage, as well.
About 93 percent of Shiloh Ranch burned, though the developed parking and picnic area off Faught Road were untouched. Firefighters used bulldozers to carve firelines and lit backfires through the park to help defend Windsor and stop the fire’s spread.
Afterwards, crews went to work to rehabilitate disturbed areas, installing erosion safeguards on charred slopes and removing trees that were dead and likely to fall.
But many of the singed trees are expected to recover. In other areas, flames did little more than burn underbrush.
“Ninety percent of the erosion control work that we can do for now is done,” Parker said Friday, “and we took the trees that were in the highest danger of coming down on trails and around the parking lot. And so we’re feeling like it’s time to let the people come in and take a look around.”
Parker called Saturday a “soft opening,” and said there could still be occasional closures in the future prompted by high winds or potential flood conditions. Heavy winter storms could cause damage, so there may be a need for patience, Parker said.
Across the region, state and local park managers have been working hard to mend open spaces to restore public access.
Sonoma Valley Regional Park, the entirety of which was burned by the Nuns fire, was reopened Thanksgiving Day.
Unburned parts of Trione-Annadel State Park and Robert Louis Stevenson State Park are open, as is Jack London State Historic Park, which will have free admission through the end of the year.
There is even some prospect of limited access before January to badly scarred Hood Mountain Regional Park and adjacent Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, though no decisions have been made, officials said.
“We’re just trying to take precautions,” Parker said, “but at the same time, be mindful that people really need to get out on the land.”
You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.