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Petaluma residents have worked for years to protect the old Scott Ranch property on the western edge of town from suburban development. We now have a one-time opportunity to secure this land forever for public enjoyment, the protection of sensitive wildlife habitat and the betterment of Sonoma County.

The property, known for its iconic red barns, was historically a dairy farm and is now owned by developer Davidon Homes. Kelly Creek flows through the former ranch land and provides high-quality habitat for the California red-legged frog, which is listed by the federal government as a threatened species. Adjacent to this property sits Helen Putnam Regional Park, a beautiful park that Sonoma County residents have treasured for decades.

The community, led by the grass-roots group Petalumans for Responsible Planning, has opposed Davidon’s plans to build as many as 93 homes on the property, pushing back against multiple development scenarios over the past 15 years. Now, Davidon has agreed to scale back its plans and sell most or all of the land to the nonprofit Kelly Creek Protection Project. This is great news for all of us.

As a willing seller, Davidon has signed an agreement with the Kelly Creek organization that offers two options. In the ideal scenario, the community would support Kelly Creek’s efforts to raise $11 million by Dec. 1 to purchase the entire 58-acre property, then turn it over to Sonoma County as an extension of Putnam Park.

As an alternative, if we raise $4.1 million by Sept. 1, we could buy 44 acres, including the most environmentally sensitive and best park land on the site. If we reach $4.1 million, but fall short of the full $11 million needed by the December deadline, Davidon has agreed to build no more than 28 homes on the remaining 14 acres, located on the north side of the land, away from Kelly Creek.

The Sonoma County Regional Parks Department is in full support of this proposed park expansion. The Sonoma Land Trust already has $1 million on hand to convert the land to a public park. We need an entrance from D Street for hikers and bikers, parking lots, restrooms, a trail connection to the top of Putnam Park and repairs to the old ranch buildings.

We already have $3 million in hand. If we can raise an additional $1 million in the next two months, we can extend Putnam Park down to Windsor Drive and D Street, opening up recreational access to more people, preserving the most critical wildlife habitat and the iconic red barns in perpetuity.

Either land purchase option would be a win for everyone. Davidon gets a return on its investment, while the people of Sonoma County get an expanded park that preserves our history, protects local quality of life and enhances our region’s wildlife and recreational values.

I urge my fellow community members throughout Sonoma County to help the Kelly Creek Protection Project raise the remaining funds required to save this unique parcel of land. You can be part of the solution that so many of us have worked for, and that residents and visitors alike will benefit from, now and far into the future. The Kelly Creek Protection Project will seek grants and foundation funds, but we will also need to bring in substantial donations from individuals and local businesses to reach our ambitious fundraising goals.

Putnam Park is a truly special place, and the addition of the old Scott Ranch land would enhance its accessibility and value to the region tremendously.

For more information, including the terms of the sale agreement and how to donate, please go to extendputnampark.org.

Greg Colvin is the director of Earth Island Institute’s Kelly Creek Protection Project. He lives in Petaluma.

You can send a letter to the editor atletters@pressdemocrat.com

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