Santa Rosa-based LandPaths acquiring Ocean Song property outside Occidental
OCCIDENTAL — From the upper reaches of Ocean Song, a storied property overlooking the Sonoma Coast, the landscape unfolds in sloping hills and creased creek valleys, with still more shadowed ridges beyond as the western horizon stretches out to meet the silvery surface of the Pacific Ocean.
Rock-studded rangeland here runs up against dark conifer forests where wildlife roams. It’s a landscape little changed since the counter-culture movement sunk deep roots in the region five decades ago, and one of their settlements is still yielding fruit at Ocean Song Farm and Wilderness Center, which has persisted as a hub for simple living, sustainable agriculture, environmental education and social harmony.
Now LandPaths, a Santa Rosa-based nonprofit land stewardship and educational organization, is working to preserve that legacy through a $9.4 million acquisition of the nearly 800-acre property. The group envisions it as an oasis for wildlife and people who want to learn to live in partnership with nature and teach young people to do the same.
“Every child in Sonoma County should have the opportunity to spend time at this incomparable place, to look out upon the expanse of land and sea — from the Farallon Islands to Mt. Diablo — and allow themselves to dream their lives as big and as beautiful as that vista,” said Craig Anderson, executive director of LandPaths.
The property is laced by hiking trails, with gardens and a large barn used for a variety of events. Its purchase would connect Ocean Song to the Willow Creek addition of the Sonoma Coast State Park and allow thru-hikes from Coleman Valley Road all the way to Shell Beach.
“It’s not just 800 acres we’re buying,” Anderson said. “You’re connecting to 5,000 acres of open space.”
But it will be some time before LandPaths is ready to welcome visitors formally onto the property. The group has to complete the purchase first, and then plan and apply for county permits authorizing the activities and events it wants to host.
October marked the close of the first purchase, a 421-acre parcel familiar to a generation of schoolchildren as Coyote Camp, a nature and wilderness retreat that ran for about 16 years on the site before it was shut down in 2017 because of long-running code violations.
That purchase was funded by two local families who anonymously donated $3.1 million of a total $5.5 million raised so far. The nonprofit still needs to raise about $3.9 million to fulfill its contract for the remaining 373-acre property owned by Pieter and Marya Myers, who bought the entire acreage in 1975 from a cattle ranching family.
“I’m confident we’ll do it,” Anderson said.
The 23-year-old LandPaths seeks to engage people with nature and public lands through volunteer stewardship, outings, youth programs, camps and events, with a particular focus on involving diverse populations and building community.
In recent years, it has acquired several properties, including the 1,000-acre Bohemia Ecological Preserve near Occidental, Riddell Preserve above Dry Creek Valley and Rancho Mark West near the headwaters of Mark West Creek. It also owns in Occidental the 48-acre Grove of the Old Trees, acquired in 2000.
Work on the Ocean Song purchase has been underway for more than two years, Anderson said, describing a deal that included razing at least four buildings constructed over the years without permits.