Fans of Sonoma County Regional Parks share their favorites

Frequent visitor, Jennielynn Holmes of Santa Rosa, stands near a tree in Sonoma Valley Regional Park, in Glen Ellen, on Saturday, September 30, 2017. (Photo by Darryl Bush / For The Press Democrat)


Jennielynn Holmes, 31, Santa Rosa Director of shelter and housing for Catholic Charities of Santa Rosa

Holmes, who works long days finding shelter for local homeless residents, seeks rejuvenation in several of Sonoma County’s parks, often in the company of her husband, Darren, a regional park ranger. “It’s my self-care,” said Holmes, whose two favorites are Stillwater Cove and Sonoma Valley regional parks. “When I’m in my times of high stress and kind of need to revitalize, it’s the ocean and hiking that does that, and Stillwater Cove is a combination of both of those.” A ridge in the Sonoma Valley park offers views of the Mayacmas range and San Pablo Bay. “I feel like I’m entering a different part of the world, and I love that,” Holmes said.

Lorez Bailey, 49, Rohnert Park Executive director of Chops Teen Club

A longtime Sonoma County resident and mother of three mostly grown children, Bailey says Doran Beach would have been her “go-to” park no matter what. But it holds particular meaning for the new Chops director, thanks to an experience a few summers back when she was serving with Social Advocates for Youth and led a Youth Ecology Corps work crew assigned to the beach for a week or so. Many of the kids were disadvantaged and had not been exposed to the spectacular coastline that draws upwards of a million visitors each year. So it was uniquely gratifying to see them experience the park and take part in maintaining and beautifying the grounds. “That was a special memory for me,” she said.

Jill Ravitch, 59, Sebastopol Sonoma County district attorney

Sebastopol’s Ragle Ranch Regional Park is “a beautiful little gem,” says Ravitch, the county’s top prosecutor. Ravitch, who enjoys walking her rescue pups, Hope and Sparky, on the 3½ miles of shaded trail that criss-crosses Atascadero Creek, says Ragle has “the best dog park in the whole county” — it even has “small dog” time for an hour each day. “I love to go in the early mornings, when nobody’s out,” she said. “Sometimes there’s fog on the surrounding hills. It’s just lovely.”

Jake Bilbro, 40, Healdsburg Owner and winemaker at Limerick Lane Cellars

An avid mountain biker who met and courted his wife, Alexis, at Trione-Annadel State Park, Bilbro and his brood — four kids, ages 5 to 18 — are an outdoorsy group. They like Shiloh Ranch and Foothill Regional Park. But Riverfront Regional Park is a convenient pedal from home, making it a choice spot for picnics, birthday parties, hikes and runs. The Redwood Hill Trail offers elevation changes and varied scenery that’s just right for young children just starting out. “It’s a great hiking trail,” Bilbro said. “Within a 20- or 30-minute hike you can go from redwoods to oak woodlands, shade to sunshine.”

Carol Eber, 71, Petaluma Chairwoman of the Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation

Eber joined the foundation board in part to ensure the south county was represented, and so she could take part in development of the future Mark West Regional Park, named after her great-great-grandfather. She frequents Helen Putnam park in Petaluma. But she deeply loves the coastal parks — Stillwater Cove, Doran Beach and Gualala Point, where she built memories camping with her now-grown son, exploring the redwoods, the river and coast. Gualala and Doran are probably tops “because we’ve just had more family outings at those parks, you know, camping and birthday parties and things like that,” Eber said. “Those are always special memories.”

Omar Gallardo, 42, Santa Rosa Outreach and diversity director for LandPaths

With its large lake, boat rentals and miles of trails, Spring Lake Regional Park is the most heavily visited of Sonoma County’s parks. But Gallardo, who grew up in north Sonoma County, remembers el Parque de Los Patos — or Duck Park, a local nickname for the site — as the place to hold birthday parties and family gatherings for many in the Latino community. He likes to take his two young children there. “It’s obviously one of the jewels we have in Sonoma County,” Gallardo said. “Because it pulls on a lot of childhood memories, I think it certainly stands above the rest.”

Justin Borton, 40, Santa Rosa

Salesman, The Hot Tub Store

Nearly every Tuesday since 2015, Justin Borton and a hardy group of trail runners have met at 6:30 a.m., rain or shine, for a run to the 1,407-foot summit of Taylor Mountain, the namesake peak of the 1,100-acre regional park and open space in Santa Rosa. The 4.5-mile roundtrip includes a steep climb among grazing livestock. “When it rains, watch out because you’ll be mud sliding like Kathleen Turner in ‘Romancing the Stone,’” said Borton. “But my favorite part about Taylor Mountain is the cows. Have you ever seen the glowing eyes of a herd of bovines in the wee hours as your headlamp illuminates the trail in front of you? It’s something to behold.”