Close to Home: Mark West neighborhood needs a shared green space

While Sonoma County is home to many beautiful parks, my family doesn’t have a park within walking distance of home.|

My wife and I lost our home in the 2017 Tubbs Fire. Rebuilding our home and our life — and now living through the pandemic — made for a tumultuous few years. Yet the resilience of our community in the face of these tragedies is a constant source of inspiration.

Following the fires, locals came together to rebuild our neighborhoods, which is an ongoing process. The idea for the future Mark West Area Community Park came out of these conversations. While Sonoma County is home to many beautiful parks, my family doesn’t have a park within walking distance of home. This is true for too many residents in our area. The park will provide much-needed green space in an area that has historically lacked access to nature.

Westin Miller
Westin Miller

I’m glad the Board of Supervisors approved critical funding for the park, and I’m eager to see this project move forward.

The park will be adjacent to the busiest intersection in unincorporated Sonoma County. But as soon as you step into the site, the traffic noise dissipates. This will be a green oasis in the neighborhood, with the potential for amenities such as a gazebo, a playground, vegetable and pollinator gardens. Trees will provide places to cool off and enjoy the shade during ever-hotter summers.

As a parent, I worry about the challenges my kids and future generations will face with climate change. Creation of this park comes at a time when California is working to conserve the natural spaces we have left. The state’s goal to protect 30% of lands and coastal waters by 2030 recognizes that biodiversity creates climate resilience. Scientists worldwide agree that a minimum of 30% of the Earth’s land and water must be protected to safeguard biodiversity and stabilize the climate. New parks in urban areas like Mark West can increase climate resilience in places where people need it most.

Natural areas in urban settings also help mitigate “heat islands” — an increasingly common phenomenon where city residents experience hotter temperatures than surrounding rural areas as a result of fewer trees and plants that can absorb sunlight and heat. Urban parks also help connect larger protected areas for migrating wildlife.

I’m proud to be part of this effort. Alongside the Sonoma Land Trust, we’re working with elected officials, business owners, health care providers, families and others to turn the vision of Mark West Area Park into reality. Once we raise the remaining funds, the park could be open to the public as soon as early 2024.

We invite the public to provide input. Visit for information.

Westin Miller is a board member of the Mark West Area Community Fund. He and his family live in Santa Rosa.

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