Jan 112017
 

Pat Eliot, one of the founders of Sonoma Mountain Preservation, died at 87 in December 2016. She was surrounded by her husband, children, and grandchildren at home on the Sonoma Mountain she loved so well.

A memorial is scheduled for April 2, 2017.

Those wishing to make a contribution in her memory to Sonoma Mountain Preservation can send it to SMP, PO Box 1772, Glen Ellen, CA. 95442-9321.

Pat (far right) leading a hike on what later became the East Slope Trail on Sonoma Mountain

Pat was born In Portland Oregon on August 2, 1929, lived there and in Seattle, WA. At age seven she moved with her family to Marin County where she attended first Dominican and then the Katherine Branson School.

In the summers when she was 14,15, and 16, she worked on the Jack London Dude Ranch, now a State Historic Park, and fell in love with that countryside.

Pat was married over 65 years to Theodore Eliot, a career Foreign Service Officer, and accompanied him to his posts in Sri Lanka (where they were married), Germany, the Soviet Union, Iran, and Afghanistan (where he was the U.S. Ambassador) and Washington DC. Their four children Sally, Ted, Wendy and Peter, were born in four different countries.

She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees concurrently in 1969 from the University of Maryland. The latter was in early childhood education, and she subsequently taught in a charter primary school and a special school for emotionally disturbed children in the District of Columbia.

While her husband was Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in the 1970s and’80s, she was Executive Director of the Association of (non-profit) Homes for the Aging in Massachusetts and appointed by then Governor Michael Dukakis to two related statewide commissions.

The Eliots moved into a new home in Sonoma in 1988, and she concentrated her time and energies on conservation issues. Along with the late George Ellman, she founded Sonoma Mountain Preservation. It led the effort to transfer 600 acres of the Sonoma Developmental Center to the Jack London Park, and to persuade the Board of Supervisors to pass an ordinance strictly protecting the scenic vistas of Sonoma Mountain.

She and her husband donated to Sonoma County a conservation easement on their property and a loop at the southern terminus of the East Slope Sonoma Mountain Ridge Trail.

Pat served on the Board of LandPaths, a countywide organization focused primarily on acquainting youths with open spaces. She was an avid reader, mostly of fiction, and belonged to two book groups, one in Santa Rosa and one in San Francisco. She also belonged to a Sonoma women’s organization that entertained monthly expert speakers on important subjects. She thoroughly enjoyed the friendships she made in all of her activities. Pat had many close friends all over the world, some of whom she had known since nursery school.

Pat was an athlete. She was a passionate horseback rider, a member of the State Parks’ Mounted Assistance Unit and of the Sonoma Development Center’s Posse. She was elected to the Sonoma Horse Council’s Hall of Fame. She has ridden across Scotland and on the Iranian Steppe. She was a passionate backpacker and climbed both Whitney and Shasta Mountains. She was also an excellent tennis player and fly fisherwoman.

In addition to her husband Ted and four children, Pat leaves nine grandchildren, Eric, Anna, Caroline, Emily, Victoria, Sam, Margaret, Tom and Katherine, and two great grandchildren Grayson and Alasdair. The family is spread from Turkey to Australia and in California, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania.

Other stories about Pat: http://www.sonomacountygazette.com/cms/pages/sonoma-county-news-article-6149.html

Big Birder, Bigger Heart

www.sonomanews.com/news/6397811-181/sonoma-mountain-protector-pateliot

Jul 242016
 

 The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors decided to approve the community separator ballot measure and proposed additions of lands with the changes below, which will be finalized at the August 2 2016 supervisors meeting on the Consent Calendar (public hearing closed, no more public comment unless more changes are made).

Thanks to Teri Shore of Greenbelt alliance for this summary. Results:
 
Ballot Measure Sunset Date – 20 years (instead of 30)
 
Shorter term of voter protections supported by all five supervisors.
 
No other significant changes to the ballot measure language or general plan provisions!
 
Community Separator Lands
 
1st District – All Sonoma Valley Lands Included as Proposed – thanks to Sup. Gorin!
 
2nd District – Removal of parcels on Frates Road and large priority greenbelt wetlands south of Petaluma along Lakeville Highway– by Sup. Rabbitt
 
3rd District – No changes by Sup. Zane
 
4th District – Significant reduction in the Cloverdale-Healdsburg Community Separator by about 75 percent – by Sup. Gore
 
5th District – All Santa Rosa-Sebastopol area additions supported as proposed by Sup. Carrillo!
 
Other issues and polices
 
No affordable housing exemption proposed or added!
 
The old policy that allows commercial projects in community separators in exchange for open space protection or “public benefit” was finally removed for good! (Policy ORSC 1 c).
 
As already allowed, farmworker housing in community separators must follow current county code. No change here but clarification added due to last minute request by wine industry.
 
While we didn’t get everything that was proposed by the excellent staff at PRMD and approved by the Planning Commission, we are close to a significant win for our green spaces. We could not have done it without you!
Dec 292015
 

Five of the “community separators” set to expire at the end of 2016 surround Sonoma Mountain. Some of them are linked directly to wildlife corridors that allow travel from the Mayacamas to the mountain and beyond.

Twenty years ago, voters countywide adopted an initiative to preserve these sorts of green places between Sonoma’s towns and cities. The County Board of Supervisors is now developing a ballot measure to renew voter protections.

The community separators have prevented housing tracts and shopping malls from sprawling into these open space buffers, ensuring that significant stretches of natural and working lands between our communities continue to thrive and grow. See Maps of Sonoma County Community Separators.

Sonoma County’s community separator policy prevents county leaders from approving major housing, commercial, and industrial development in designated lands between towns and cities. These popular voter-backed protections passed with more than 70% of the vote. Greenbelt Alliance is leading the way to renew and strengthen the voter mandate that protects community separators from Petaluma and Sonoma to Windsor and Healdsburg.

The purpose of community separators is three-fold—they serve as green buffers between cities and towns, contain urban development, and preserve the rural charm of Sonoma County’s landscape. The county’s eight community separators cover 17,000 acres of natural and farm lands. These policies complement the cities’ urban growth boundaries, which designate where a city can and cannot develop, by safeguarding adjacent unincorporated lands.

In addition to protecting green zones between communities from sprawl, community separators preserve farmlands, waterways, drinking water, groundwater recharge areas, wildlife corridors, water quality, hillsides, woodlands, and much more.

Greenbelt Alliance and other conservation organizations are advocating for enhancement and strengthening of our community separators, reminding us that. urgent needs for housing can be met within the footprint of our towns and cities.

Thanks to Greenbelt Alliance’s blog for sharing this article! If you’d like to get involved in the campaign, contact Teri Shore at tshore@greenbelt.org

Sep 302014
 

“No summit within miles carries the cachet of the mountain I live on” writes Tracy Salcedo-Chourre, author of this post.

Seems I’ve always called a mountain home. I used to live on a mountaintop—at least by California standards. This was in Colorado; our home on Circle Drive was perched on a nameless summit at 8,500 feet. That qualifies, even if neighboring Bergen Peak, at nearly 10,000 feet, got all the glory.

Now I live at the foot of Sonoma Mountain, which by Colorado standards is a hummock. Never mind that, though: It’s as steep and imposing, in its context, as any Rocky Mountain. And it’s the iconic one—no summit within miles carries the cachet of the mountain I live on.

Nearing the summit o Sonoma Mountain

Nearing the summit of Sonoma Mountain

It’s odd, though. I am a walker, by both nature and profession–Tracy of the Trails. But I have never been to the top of Sonoma Mountain. It’s been off-limits, private property. I’ve been as close as the trails permit, gazing upward in mild frustration at the grassy apex, contemplating trespass but turning around instead because I am not, by nature, a trespasser. Especially in parks and preserves. I know how much work goes into setting parkland apart, and I would never violate the trust that exists between parkland and neighboring private property.

So I am elated at news that Sonoma Mountain’s summit will soon be accessible to walkers like me, by dint of private/public negotiations that have yielded new deposits into the Sonoma County Open Space land bank and a new stretch of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. Hikers will now be able to explore the top as well as the bottom of the mountain.

But were the top never to open—or were I never to reach it—wouldn’t matter to me in the long run. It doesn’t make me love the mountain more. Just to be clear: The paths on the lower reaches of Sonoma Mountain have imprinted themselves forever on the soles of my wandering shoes. I know pockets of the eastern flanks intimately; Jack London State Historic Park and the open spaces above the Sonoma Developmental Center are my backyard. I return again and again to the old familiar, where the vistas never fail, the woodlands are always fragrant, the flowers and grasses demonstrate the seasons in a parade of blooms that mature to seeds and begin again.

SDC wildlands

SDC wildlands

Yes, I’ll be able to get to the top soon, but I’ll be found on the paths I’ve walked for years, around my home at the base.

By Tracy Salcedo-Chourre

 

Sep 062014
 

From the Sonoma County Regional Parks…

“Our favorite thing to do is announce a new park, so we’re thrilled to let you know about Sonoma Mountain Regional Park & Open Space Preserve, a 738-acre gem we’re working to open by the end of the year. The parkland is located on Sonoma Mountain Road near Pressley Road, southeast of Santa Rosa between Rohnert Park and the Sonoma Valley. Sonoma Mountain’s special features include forests of oaks and redwoods, numerous creeks, sweeping views of Sonoma Valley and the Santa Rosa Plain, and a 4.25-mile trail connection to Jack London State Historic Park. The park will comprise six properties on the north slope of the mountain, five of them purchased over the years by the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District with revenue from a voter-approved sales tax. The Board of Supervisors last month OK’d the properties’ transfer from the District to Regional Parks. We’re now repairing a bridge at the main entrance to the site, and once that’s completed this fall, we’ll open the park for hiking, horseback riding, and limited mountain biking.”

One view from the top: Mt. St. Helena

 

Jul 312014
 

California_Vole_(Microtus_californicus)“There, before he reached his hole,
We saw a California vole…
On lush green meadow there were we
Our party now enlarged to three.
Amidst the grass he paused with us,
A small M. Californicus.
The furry fellow spied his goal
Then said good-bye, went down his hole.
A touching moment, we would say,
Which made complete a lovely day.”

This post, by Robin Pennell, is one of a series of guest posts from local residents on “Why I Love The Mountain” on SonomaMountain.org. Thank you, Robin for your inspiration at Van Hoosear Wildflower Preserve, one of the privately protected open spaces on the mountain. Photo by Jerry Kirkhart, Flickr.

Jul 312014
 

Like most newcomers to Petaluma, I was struck by the mountain dominating the skyline to the northeast, with its checkerboard of grassland and oak woodlands reminiscent of the beloved hills of my youth.  I learned it was Sonoma County’s dominant landform and namesake, and of its foundational role in the region’s culture and history.

And then came the question every outdoor-oriented newcomer to Petaluma asks: where can we hike up there?

Sadly, the answer in the early 1980’s was: nowhere.  Of the more than 10,000 acres of Sonoma Mountain that can be seen from Petaluma, there was not a single acre of parkland, nor a single public trail.

LafFrmTurnBas

Petaluma view: Sonoma Mountain and Lafferty Ranch

Taken at the Petaluma River’s Turning Basin near downtown by Scott Hess. Lafferty Ranch, owned by the City of Petaluma, includes the large wooded canyon in the center of the frame.

Marin to Petaluma

I was fortunate to grow up in a southern Marin adjacent to natural open space.  Many of my most formative experiences took place in those hills, in the company of parents, friends, and my own thoughts and observations.  I credit that immediacy of nature with much of what I have become since, including a lifelong environmentalist.

In the early 1980s my wife and I had moved to Petaluma, because it was midway between my work in San Rafael and hers in Santa Rosa, and because it seemed a good place to raise a family. But, as we discovered, the west side of the mountain itself was wholly privately owned, with no public access.

Open Space Hope

Much has changed since the 1980s. The Sonoma County Ag Preservation & Open Space District, twice funded by voters and aided by the Sonoma Land Trust, LandPaths, and Sonoma Mountain Preservation, have permanently protected vast swaths of agricultural and open space, and opened many thousands of acres of scenic natural lands to responsible public enjoyment throughout the county.

Throughout the county, that is, except on the Petaluma side of Sonoma Mountain.  What was true in the 1980s remains true today: not a single trail nor a single public acre can be found on the southeast slope overlooking Petaluma.

Yet a ray of hope began to emerge in the early 1990s. Petaluma began to implement its longstanding plan to open Lafferty Ranch, a scenic, 270-acre, city-owned property comprising the headwaters of historic Adobe Creek and reaching to the Sonoma Mountain ridgeline of Sonoma Mountain, as a public park.

That plan ran into resistance from some neighboring property owners, and has developed into quite an ongoing saga. You can learn about it on other SMP blogs, and in detail at www.laffertyranch.org

Where to Hike?

Today, when outdoor enthusiasts in Petaluma ask where they can hike on our side of our beautiful mountain, the answer, lamentably, is still “nowhere.”

But many of us, with the continued support of Sonoma Mountain Preservation and others, are determined to change that.

Before too long, I am certain, Lafferty Ranch will be opened to the public, as long planned.  And one day too, I hope it will become part of the existing and growing network of public lands and trails on Sonoma Mountain, so that our children and grandchildren can once again hike over the mountain from valley to valley, in the footsteps of the Coast Miwok, Mariano Vallejo, and Jack London.

This post, by Larry Modell, is one of a series of guest posts from local  residents on “Why I Love The Mountain” on SonomaMountain.org. Thank you Larry for your contribution, and we encourage readers to find out how they can help Lafferty open to the public.

Apr 072014
 

For over 100 years the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) near Glen Ellen has provided a safe and secure place for the developmentally disabled. Now SDC faces certain closure by the State. The only question is how long the institution will remain open.

An impressive coalition of stakeholders is working proactively to preserve the 800 acres of undeveloped land and find creative ways to serve the remaining population. The coalition grew out of ongoing efforts by environmental groups to save the only remaining wildlife corridor left in the Valley, and by the parent group to ensure care for their family members.

What Is the Status of SDC?

A moratorium on admissions has reduced the population served at SDC approximately 500 people who are the most fragile or have multiple impairments. SDC is the largest employer in the Valley, including many workers with skills found nowhere else in the state.

SDC wildlands

SDC wildlands

SDC’s lands connect Sonoma Mountain and the Mayacamas Mountain Range on the eastern   slopes. SDC is the linchpin. Its valley floor lands are largely undeveloped. SDC covers 1000 acres, including the 200-acre footprint of buildings and 800-acre wildlands.

Some of the several hundred buildings in the footprint of SDC are architectural gems. Some are medical clinics and labs, Some are the resident’s homes. Some serve as schools, sheltered workshops, and recreational centers. SDC also includes a farm run for the clients, and two community-used fields for soccer and baseball. The area is laced with trails that have been used for a century by generations of Valley residents. Two lakes store water for irrigation and client use.

Future use of these buildings is a concern of the coalition. Numerous options for an expanded health facility for people with special needs are being discussed, and will be proposed to the State.

Who Is the Coalition?

Coalition members include the Sonoma Land Trust, the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, the Sonoma Ecology Center, Sonoma County Regional Parks, Sonoma Mountain Preservation, the Parent Hospital Association, the County Economic Development Board, the Sonoma County Water Agency, Labor Representatives from the Center, a former Director at the Center, Medical personnel, Jack London Park representatives, Sonoma County Health Services, and District Representatives from the Offices of Senator Noreen Evans, Assembly member Yamada, and Representative Mike Thompson. First District Supervisor Susan Gorin leads the effort. The group meets monthly.

Coalition members have been working closely with Department Directors in Sacramento, attending meetings, and keeping a close watch on developments. Senator Evans has introduced SB 1428, a bill to protect the wild lands. More bills are in the hopper.  Sonoma County Supervisors will soon receive a briefing on the ongoing developments.

Past Citizen Efforts Saved Open Space

In 2000, State plans to surplus some acres of old SDC orchard for a vineyard lease or certain sale to developers prompted a general meeting of citizens in Sonoma Valley. Led by SMP and other local groups, several hundred people with strong commitment to preserving SDC upper lands convinced then State Senator Mike Thompson to introduce a bill to ensure that the upper lands would be saved for open space. Over 600 acres of undeveloped lands at SDC were deeded between 2000 and 2002 to State Department of Parks and Recreation, which then added these acres to Jack London State Historic Park.

In the coming months there will be a community meeting to engage support for the efforts of the coalition. We invite you to join in the effort we know is to come!

By Diane (Mickey) Cooke