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LandPaths receives $2.4 million to help link 5,000 acres of open space near Sonoma Coast

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Santa Rosa-based LandPaths has secured a state grant of more than $2.4 million to purchase a wooded property west of Occidental that will help link up 5,000 acres of open space near the Sonoma Coast.

The funding, part of $24 million awarded last month from the state’s Proposition 1 Watershed Restoration Grant Program, will go toward the purchase of 373 acres adjacent to the longtime Ocean Song Farm and Wilderness retreat, which was acquired by the Sonoma County nonprofit last fall.

LandPaths has until the end of the year to raise about $1.5  million still needed to complete its purchase of the second piece of land, said Craig Anderson, the group’s executive director.

The sellers, Pieter and Marya Myers, have given LandPaths until the end of the year to complete the $3 million purchase. The group hopes to seal the deal by August.

“I’m stunned and thrilled that we got to where we did,” Anderson said of the grant from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. “I think it speaks to the value of the project.

“The state looked at this project with their completely objective and much larger geographic scope and came back with the response that this is not only regional but of statewide importance. That’s a huge shot in the arm to all of us that have been involved with it.”

Pieter and Mayra Myers bought what was then an old 900-acre cattle ranch off Coleman Valley Road four decades ago, during the heyday of a flourishing communal community that grew out of the bohemian culture of western Sonoma County.

The land was later divided, but Ocean Song remained a wilderness retreat and nature education center throughout and will remain such under LandPaths’ stewardship.

The aim is to reunite 800 acres of the original property, a $9.4 million undertaking all combined, though that includes some initial clean-up and stewardship dollars, in addition to real estate purchases, Anderson said.

The Myers property also is positioned so it links the Ocean Song preserve and Willow Creek addition to Sonoma Coast State Park, allowing for through-hikes from the preserve’s scenic ridges to Shell Beach, 8 miles away.

The purchase will stave off future development, preserving wildlife corridors and allowing for protection and stewardship of coastal forest and grasslands in the Salmon Creek watershed.

Greg Sarris, tribal chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, called the pending acquisition “totally amazing.”

“It is so important for the people of Sonoma County, and for my people, the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, who have many historic sites on the property,” he said in a news release.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

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