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Graton celebrates grand opening of its first park

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Wide-leaved maple, eucalyptus, redwood, valley oak and willow trees dot the landscape around a babbling creek that runs through Graton’s new — and only — park.

“I never imagined it could be this wonderful,” said HolLyn D’Lil, president of the Graton Green Group, a nonprofit whose sole purpose is to create and sustain a park in the small town north of Sebastopol. “It’s beyond my wildest dreams.”

On Sunday evening, the group held a grand-opening celebration for the Graton Green, the half-acre park located just off of Graton Road, between Edison and Bowen streets, alongside the West County Trail.

About 50 residents attended the event, which included ceremonial speeches by community leaders and a potluck-style picnic. The crowd also marched around to trumpets and saxophones, played by the whimsical Hubbub Club.

Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, who represents the area, spoke to those gathered of the importance of community, and applauded the grassroots effort to make the park a reality after more than a decade of work.

“This park is exactly what makes a town great, and it’s not because of the grass. And it’s not because of the cement, and it’s not because of the bricks, right?,” Hopkins said. “It’s because of every single person who came together in the community to get this done, and because of the connections that you made along the way.

“You have now created a place that will continue to create community, as families come out here, as people walk after they’ve gotten drinks at Underwood or had breakfast at Willow Wood,” she added, mentioning nearby eateries.

Hopkins also reminded the crowd of the ribbon-cutting ceremony held last year, when they marched to music and celebrated getting one step closer to fulfilling their vision of a community park.

The lot where the park is located was purchased from developer Orrin Thiessen last year.

The Sonoma Ag + Open Space District provided $103,124 toward the acquisition, and the Graton Green Group, a volunteer-run nonprofit, raised over $60,000.

“Just providing a place for people to find respite, even though this is just a half an acre, you can feel that it’s different from being in town. Having a place for your community to gather is just so important and what makes the community a community,” said Jennifer Kuszmar, matching grant coordinator at Sonoma Ag + Open Space. “We are more than happy to provide funding for these types of projects.”

One way volunteers raised money was through selling bricks with inscriptions, which were used to create the pathway alongside the creek. Bricks still are available for purchase at gratongreen.org/donate.

Sizes and prices range from a 4-by-8-inch brick with one line of text for $50 to a 16-by-16-inch with four lines of text and a logo for $575. Volunteers say the driving force behind the park was D’Lil, who first started hosting meetings to build a park in town back in 2007. A broad-leaved maple tree was planted Sunday in her honor.

“That tree will be the tallest, toughest and long-living tree in all of Graton, just as HolLyn has been,” said Dewey Watson, a Sebastopol attorney.

Graton residents and visitors can expect more at the park in coming months. Plans call for a gazebo, more benches, bike racks, a water fountain and a playground.

“It’s a long time coming,” Thiessen said. “This is just the beginning.”

You can reach Staff Writer Susan Minichiello at 707-521-5216 or susan.minichiello@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @susanmini.

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