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50 years of Sonoma County Regional Parks

JANET BALICKI WEBER,

1964: Sonoma County publishes a 20-year recreation plan calling for a more coordinated approach to acquiring parks. At the time, the county owned only 150 acres of parkland at Doran Beach.

1967: On Jan. 30, the Board of Supervisors hires its first parks director, Joe Rodota. He earns $996 a month and oversees just one park, Doran Beach in Bodega Bay. The park system soon grew to include Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach.

1970s-80s: Sonoma County activists fight to preserve coastal access, leading to California’s bedrock public access law, the creation of the Coastal Commission and five trails along The Sea Ranch managed by Regional Parks.

1974-75: Sonoma County Water Agency begins work to turn the Spring Lake flood control basin in Santa Rosa into parkland. Hood Mountain Regional Park opens, affording a wilderness experience and views of San Francisco Bay.

1976-77: Farmland formerly belonging to the Ragle family in west Sebastopol is acquired and dedicated as parkland in 1983. Crane Creek in Rohnert Park is opened.

1980: A campground is built at Stillwater Cove Regional Park. Today, camping options in Regional Parks include Doran Beach, Gualala Point, Hood Mountain, Spring Lake and Westside Park.

1985: Spud Point Marina in Bodega Harbor, a county-built destination for commercial and sport fishing, opens.

1987: Maxwell Farms Regional Parks opens in Sonoma, along with Bluff Top Trail between The Sea Ranch and Gualala Point.

1990: The Joe Rodota Trail opens on old railroad line between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol. Shiloh Ranch Regional Park opens, affording 850 acres for hiking, biking and horseback riding east of Windsor. Voters approve a quarter-cent sales tax to support farmland and open space preservation, laying the groundwork for future park additions.

1996: Steelhead Beach opens, adding a popular summer destination and go-to spot for Russian River anglers.

2002: The Environmental Discovery Center opens at Spring Lake, marking a new era in education programs for county youth.

2005: Riverfront Regional Park opens in Healdsburg, and a pair of lakes that once were gravel pits become paddling and fishing destinations, along with picnic grounds. Land for Tolay Lake Regional Park is purchased and transferred to Regional Parks.

2011: The Healdsburg Water Carnival, a standby of early 20th-century life on the Russian River, returns as a parks fundraiser.

2012: Regional Parks manages Annadel State Park for one year to spare it from closure because of state budget cuts. The Laguna de Santa Rosa Trail opens east of Sebastopol.

2013: Taylor Mountain Regional Park and Preserve opens on Santa Rosa’s southern flank.

2015: North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park and Preserve opens east of Rohnert Park, providing connections to Jack London State Historic Park and the Bay Area Ridge Trail.

2016: Measure J, a proposed half-cent sales tax to boost Regional Parks funding, falls short of approval by less than 1,100 votes.

2017: Tolay Lake Regional Park, the county’s largest, grows to more than 3,400 acres ahead of its opening for general access, slated for early 2018.