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

May 312015
 

Under the great dome of time

From deep in the slow moving earth

A mountain lifts its crest into the heavens

Sun and frost

Wind and rain

Soil makers

Working their ways

For trees, flowers grass and seeds

Feeder of birds and beasts

Day and night

Watcher of countless seasons

That arise and pass away

And the silent mountain stands

 

Nestled in soft soil

An acorn’s root goes deep

Slowly ever slowly

The promise that was held

Perfectly in the seed

Becomes a mighty oak

A home and pantry for the birds, for insects

And a multitude of tiny lives

A hopping place for squirrels

A place of shade for deer and fox and mice

And the great oak grows

And the beauty mountain stands in silencesonoma mountain oak tree

 

Then came the hunters, acorn gatherers

Sacred Mountain worshipers

For ten thousand years they came

And they were happy

The workers of the land, they came

The cattlemen

The orchard men

The tenders of the vine

Fathers, mothers, children, pioneers

They came in waves

And flourished

And the Valley of the Moon held and fed them all

And the mighty oak was witness

And the mountain called Sonoma

Stood beside them in its beauty

Then came a man called Jack

With Charmain his beloved wife

A Beauty Ranch was born

Their place of happiness, hope and friendships

A cottage built

Books written

Vines planted heavy with fruit

A Big House rose amidst the redwoods

But alas, a great flame took the house away

One day Jack spoke to Charmain

And this is what he said

He said

“If I would beat you to it,

I wouldn’t mined if you laid my ashes on the knoll

where the children of the pioneers are buried.

and roll over me a red boulder

from the ruins of the Big House”

Then he too was taken

And the great oak saw it all

And the mountain called Sonoma stood in silence

 

Three hundred years

Maybe four

The old oak nears its passage

A child of some distant parent

The parent of a child

It now becomes

Passing an ancient linage

On into the future

So be our lives

We dwellers of the Valley

A chain of love and hope

From hand to hand be given

Recalling now and then

To offer up our gratitude

To these, the watchers of our lives

Our sacred guardians

This mighty oak

And this

The silent beauty mountain called Sonoma

 

by Michael Sheffield

copyright 2015

www.mountainandpine.com

Thanks to poet Michael Sheffield for sharing this poem, read by him at both the Jack London State Park oak tree planting and Sonoma Arbor Day, 2015.

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.

Dec 092012
 

sonoma mountain petaluma hiking trailThe scene is October 2020 and young Willie and a friend have started on a fifteen-mile hike from downtown Petaluma with the goal of reaching Glen Ellen by crossing Sonoma Mountain. His imagination has been stirred by his reading of Jack London, on horseback, having ascended from his Beauty Ranch to the top of the mountain, shading his eyes to witness the Pacific Ocean to the west.

Willie’s grandfather had told him about a Petaluma tradition: a hike to legendary Whitney Falls on the Sonoma side, lunch in hand, and returning fourteen hours later to Petaluma the same day. No questions asked by property owners in his grandfather’s youth. Willie envied the freedom to roam in the countryside in those days.

Now he knows of a designated trail over the summit. Up Adobe Creek traversing Lafferty Ranch, through the Mitsui property to the top of the mountain on the publicly owned Sonoma Mountain Ranch, the trail will bring him to the borders of Jack London Park, the state part that recently added Whitney Falls at its border.

Unlike his grandfather’s description of a tired hiker, having ascended a 2100-foot climb in seven hours to gain the spectacular sigh of the Falls, only to face a seven hour return to Petaluma, Willie will descend on a trail through Beauty Ranch to Glen Ellen and pick up a bus ride back to Petaluma.

Everyone likes to climb to the top of a mountain, like a bear, “to see what he could see,” particularly a mountain that is every present in your daily life. Willie’s grandfather claimed that Sonoma Mountain was the last Bay Area peak amongst a circle of peaks around the Bay that now provided public access.

Willie wonders whether the lunch his mother packed will be enough.

Nov 012011
 

For over a decade the slopes of Sonoma and Taylor mountains have been covered, not only in homes and fields and woods, but by a set of development guidelines that restrict the visual impact of new residences. IN 2011 the county Board of Supervisors unanimously approved revisions to the design guidelines and extended them to include the southern slopes of the Mayacamas.

The guidelines apply to single family dwellings, appurtenant structures such as garages, guest houses, storage buildings, etc. and to related roadways, grading sites and utilities. They do not apply to agricultural structures or uses nor to structures that do not require a building permit.

They are intended to reduce the visual impact of development. Guidelines include site planning, architectural and landscaping elements. Site planning constraints include, for example, locating structures so they are screened by existing vegetation or topographic features when viewed from a public road. Architectural guidelines address exterior color, glazing (non-reflective) and night lighting, while landscaping guidelines cover plant species, re-vegetation scale and density.

SMP had a major role in getting county approval and implementation of the initial guidelines and, this time with the assistance of land planning consultant Nancy Dakin, again pushed for approval of the revised and expanded requirements.

This coming year SMP will produce and distribute the guidelines in an easy-to-understand pamphlet which will be available through real estate offices as well as the PRMD office.

For more information, in the meantime, contact
PRMD
22550 Ventura Ave., Santa Rosa, 95403,
707-565-1900
www.sonoma-county.org/prmd.

sonoma mountain preservation journal

sonoma mountain logo

Nov 012011
 

When Jose Altimira traveled through Sonoma Valley in 1823, looking for a place to found a mission, he described Sonoma Mountain as “well-covered with trees fit for building a pueblo.” There were plenty of flat places on the valley floor to grow crops; the idea of farming the mountain probably never crossed his mind. Sixteen years later, General Vallejo established one of the first water-powered sawmills in California on what is now Asbury Creek in Glen Ellen, and the cutting of redwoods and Douglas fir began. It was common on the frontier for settlers to be close on the heels of the loggers, moving onto the freshly-cleared land. While the big trees were being harvested from the mountain, Charity and Coleman Asbury and their two year-old daughter Virginia began making their way west from Missouri by wagon. Arriving in Sonoma, they found the best land on the valley floor already claimed.
Looking at their options, they must have considered whether they could make a go of it on more marginal land. In the fall of 1850 they purchased 640 acres on the side of Sonoma Mountain from General Vallejo for $3500. The property encompassed what became the upper part of the original Developmental Center property, running all the way to the top of the ridge.
Over the next two years, their family grew to three children and members of their extended family had migrated west to join them. Coleman’s brother joined them and “worked in redwood” nearby. Charity’s siblings and parents also lived on the mountain.
Coleman and Charity’s farm had four milk cows, three head of cattle, 20 chickens, and ten oxen. Oxen were the heavy machinery of the day; their brute force used for plowing fields, pulling wagons, and hauling sections of big redwoods to the mill.
They likely used them to plow the five acres they had under cultivation, where they grew corn, wheat, potatoes and onions. Their neighbors were also growing hay and raising hogs.
Elsewhere on the mountain, logging continued until about 1856, when the sawmill was converted to a grist mill. After 1852, the Asburys mysteriously disappear from the record. Were they were visited by disease or some other catastrophe? Did they give up farming the mountain because it was just too hard? All that’s left is their name on the creek that drains their old homestead. By 1867, their property appears to have been abandoned, with no legal owner. Eventually, William McPherson Hill took over the land and sold it to the State of California in 1890.

Jack London Pig PalaceWresting a living from the side of Sonoma Mountain was tough. Farming probably provided a subsistence living in better years and something less in harder times. Milo Shepard, grand nephew and heir to Jack London’s Ranch described these early settlers as mostly Scotch-Irish, similar in heritage to the people who settled the southern Appalachians.
Among them were the Cowans, whose homestead included Cowan Meadow (now in Jack London State Park) in the 1850s. Some locals still remember Hazen Cowan, who was Jack London’s foreman and still around in the early 1970s. His brother Norman was a rodeo rider. During one competition, Norman broke his leg. Unwilling to accept defeat, he spent the night in an ice house with his leg between two blocks of ice and went on to win the finals. But even the Cowans were ultimately unable to make a go of homesteading. Scrambling to feed themselves during the depression of the 1880s, they hunted out the last deer and finally had to
abandon their place on the mountain.

There were exceptions to this pattern. Descendants of ‘Redwood’ Thompson still live on land he homesteaded in the 1850s, along what is now Sonoma Mountain Road. Just to the south, wine merchants Kohler and Frohling started a commercial
vineyard in the 1850s; that land is still in grapes.

But most early settlers were eventually defeated in their attempts to farm the mountain. As Jack London described it: “most of the ranchers were poor and hopeless; no one could make any money there, they told me. They had worked the land out and their only hope was to move on somewhere else. . .” These “farmers of the old school” had “lost their money, broken their hearts, lost their land.”

London pieced together his beauty ranch from a half-dozen bankrupt farms and set to work, “rebuilding worn-out hillside lands that were worked out and destroyed by our wasteful California pioneer farmers.”

During his brief years on the mountain, London experimented with many crops, growing hay, grapes, and eucalyptus, raising pigs, horses and cattle. Recognizing that the volcanic soil was delicate and prone to erosion, he built terraces to keep it from washing away. He knew that finding the right practices and the right crops
were essential to keeping his ranch going in the long run.

Since his death almost a century ago, London’s family has carried forward his vision, carefully working within the limits of the land. Likewise, some of “Redwood” Thompson’s descendants still live on the family’s mountain
homestead. The land where Kohler and Frohling planted their vineyard is still in grapes. Some kinds of success can be measured only over the course of generations. Where others moved on in broken-hearted defeat, a few have managed to make the mountain a true home.

Arthur Dawson:
Arthur Dawson has long had a keen interest in ‘the story of the land. He has served as historical ecologist at the Sonoma Ecology Center for over ten years and is the author of several books, including ‘The Stories Behind Sonoma Valley Place Names, a local bestseller. He can see Sonoma Mountain daily from his home in Glen Ellen, but has never quite been to the top.

sonoma mountain logo

Nov 092010
 

jack london sonoma moutain visitRecreation on the mountain can include wine tasting, visiting Morton’s Warm Springs, attending a retreat at the Westerbeke Ranch, or, as most visitors and residents do, heading to a park, principally Jack London State Historic Park.

To reach Jack London State Historic Park, take London Ranch Road south out of Glen Ellen and follow it to the end. Parking costs $7/day. No dogs are allowed out of the historic section of the park, which is near the entrance. Bikes are restricted to designated fire roads and several trails. Cyclists need to watch for sign at trailheads and observe season restrictions.

First time visitors often start by touring the historic buildings, including the burned-out Wolf House, the summer cottage and museum, and the barn and must-see Pig Palace.

Then on to the hikes.

Major trails inside Jack London State Historic Park include the Mountain Trail, a six-mile round trip, which starts at the parking lot and climbs past London Lake to the top of Sonoma Mountain, via either the Summit Trail or the Hayfields Loop.

Signage along the way makes sense and can easily be followed. The Sonoma Ridge Trail, a 10-mile loop, begins about two miles from the parking lot, leaves the Mountain Trail to the left and rises along a ridge to afford great views of Sonoma Valley, Mt. Diablo, Mt. Tamalpais, Mt. St. Helena and much of the Bay Area.

Shorter trails take off from the Mountain Trail around London Lake, including Fallen Bridge trail (yes, there is a fallen bridge) which follows Asbury Creek canyon into the old London Ranch orchards and some old growth redwoods. For the adventurous, several steep trails lead down to the Sonoma Development Center’s peaceful Fern Lake.

Trails also wander through the old Jack London Beauty Ranch orchard (pear trail, apple trail, etc.) and circle the historical buildings, including the Wolf House ruins.

New Trails

Two lengthy new trails are in the works. The first, called the North Slope Sonoma Mountain Ridge Trail, currently under construction, will run 4.25 miles, connecting on the east with the Hayfields Loop in JLSHP and the west with a new public parking/trail staging area at Jacobs Ranch, about three miles up Sonoma Mt. Road, going east from the fire station on Bennett Valley Rd. The trail will end at one of the highest points in JLSHP. Rising along the north slope of the mountain, it will afford view of the Mayacamas Range and Sonoma Valley to the east and Santa Rosa to the west. It will also, eventually, comprise a section of the Bay Area Ridge Trail.

Jacobs Ranch, an Open Space District preserve, may be open for short hikes, depending on conditions of access roads. Check with Sonoma County Open Space District before trying to enter.

Another ambitious undertaking, the South Slope Trail, with a planned ground breaking in April 2011, will add about four miles to the Sonoma Ridge Trail (see above). It will provide a 140miles round trip from the JLSHP parking lot. Watch our website for news on this major feature.

To get started exploring the mountain, you can enjoy organized hikes with trained and knowledgeable leaders. Contact the non-profit LandPaths and/or state parks volunteers Bill Meyers or Dave Chalk at (707) 539-8847 or to the website for State or Regional Parks.

Dave and Bill offer monthly hikes at 10 a.m. on Saturdays. Most hikes average about 40 participants and are as much social event as hiking exercise. Hikes are called moderately strenuous, but the do end with a tailgate party in the parking log.

Horses

You can bring you own horses to Jack London State Historic Park, parking your trailer in the upper parking lot at the far west end. Horses must stay on designated fire roads and trails. Guided trail rides can arranged by calling Triple Creek Horse Outfit in Glen Ellen (707) 887-8700 or go the their website.

Retreat to the Mountain

For a romantic, low-key, somewhat rustic getaway, redolent with history and steeped in the culture of the mountain, few places compare with Westerbeke Ranch, off Grove Street, west of Arnold Drive in Sonoma. The property that is now Westerbeke Ranch was purchased by long time residents Richard and Muriel Van Hoosear as a vacation retreat for themselves and their three daughters. The buildings and grounds developed as their family grew. Richard and Muriel loved to travel and on each trip to Mexico or Spain they returned with new architectural ideas and decorations.

In the late 1960’s the ranch was transformed into the conference center it is today. The Westerbeke family invites visitors to enjoy their home and workplace. To make an appointment for a tour, for more information about weddings or other events at the ranch, or for additional information, go to their web site www.westranch.com.

Stop and View the Flowers

Another Van Hoosear family contribution to the region consists of the 163-acre preserve at the foot of Sonoma Mountain off Carriger Road known and treasured for its abundance and variety of wildflowers. Over 250 species of common and rare wildflowers and native grasses thrive throughout the property. Carriger Creek, a tributary of Sonoma Creek, runs through the preserve. The property is managed by the Sonoma Ecology Center, with dual goals of protecting the preserve’s botanical, aquatic and wildlife values and providing public access for educational purposes. Now protected by an Open Space District conservation easement, the preserve welcomes visitors by guided tour each year during the spring when the flowers are at their peak. Reservations are required and space is limited; for reservations, contact Elly Seelye at (707) 996-0712 ext. 124, or email elly@sonomaecologycenter.org. A donation of $20 per adult and $10 per child is requested, though no one will be turned away.

Go Organic Wine-tasting and Take a Vineyard Tour

On your way to or from Jack London State Park, pull of London Ranch Road into the Benziger Family Winery. The entire portfolio of Benziger wine is certified sustainable, organic or biodynamic.

The Benziger family has been growing grapes on Sonoma Mountain for almost 30 years. According to the co-owner Chris Benziger, his brother Mike and sister in-law Mary discovered the vineyard in the late 70’s and purchased it with help form their parents. Three other brothers and a sister joined the business.

“In the beginning we farmed the same way as everyone else around here. You spray to keep the weeds in check, to keep the bugs away, and to increase yields,” observed Chris. But, he added, after a few years Mike pushed the family to consider something different.

To discover the results of their transition to a more sustainable yet still commercially viable model, go to their website www.benziger.com for information on tours and tastings.

Meditate at a Zen Center

The Sonoma Mountain Zen Center (or, Genjoji) is an 80-acre Soto Zen practice center located on Sonoma Mountain Rd.

Founded by Jakusho Kwong and his wife Laura Kwong in 1973, Kwong-roshi is the current guiding teacher of the Zen center. The center offers residential training and a practice regimen for local members and visitors from all over.

The Zen Center supports itself through members’ donations, proceeds from its Zen Dust bookstore, and by offering rooms for rent.

Author Sarah Ban Breathnach described the center in her book A Man’s Journey to Simple Abundance:

“Near the top of the mountain, the road dips, bends, then snakes through a small grove of redwoods. The dense canopy blocks all ambient light, so that when you emerge on the other side of the grove, you feel as though you’ve passed through a portal into another world. It’s a fitting way to approach Sonoma Mountain Zen Center, because people there view reality just a little bit differently from the way most of us do.” For more information on programs and access, go to www.smzc.net.

Soak and Swim in a Warm Spring

Bordering Sonoma Creek just west of Glen Ellen and nestled among a canopy of large oaks, open meadows and rolling hills, Morton’s Warm Springs is perfect for picnics, reunions, family recreation, corporate retreats and meetings, weddings, and class field trips.

The Wappo Indians, early residents of the area, recognized the healing properties of the geothermal mineral springs and considered the waters sacred.

In 1939 Ethel and Harold Morton purchased the property and began operating it as Morton’s Warm Springs Resort. The site not includes natural mineral pool, picnic and BBQ sites, bocce ball and a variety of other courts and fields.

Morton’s is open during summer months; go to their website for directions, dates and times.

Oct 092009
 

sonoma mountain preserve

Back in September 2008, as the economy moved closer to the brink, not much was happening on the local real estate front besides foreclosure sales.  But one opportunity quietly emerged that launched a frenzy of activity and a lot of optimism in a generally economic time.

The opportunity also gave leaders in SMP a chance to create a wonderful story with a happy ending, through teamwork, old friends working together, their daughters learning to work together and the cooperation and coordination of public agencies and on-profits.

The opportunity arose when a 287-acre parcel near the summit of Sonoma Mountain known as the Stevenson Ranch came up for sale. Kirsten Lindquist, an agent for Sotheby’s in Sonoma, learned of the offering by accident, but immediately recognized the enormity of the chance to obtain and preserve this property for use by the public.

She informed her mother, Mickey Cooke, long time resident and founding member of SMP. Mickey told Kirsten to call Mickey’s childhood friend and fellow SMP leader, Pat Eliot. Pat, busy packing for a hiking trip in Europe, quickly called her own daughter, Wendy Eliot, conservation director for the Sonoma Land Trust. And so it began.

Ted Eliot, Pat’s husband and campaign manager for the recent ballot initiative that renewed funding for the Sonoma County Agricultural and Open Space District (OSD), got on the phone to Andrea Mackenzie, then general manager of the OSD; Ralph Benson, executive director of the Sonoma Land Trust and Valerie Brown, supervisor for District 1. Everyone recognized how special this opportunity was.

Over the next two months, while the economy crashed and most of us struggled to confront the holidays with reduced resources, Wendy and Andrea worked intensely to put together a deal that would satisfy the seller who demand the sale close by the end of the year. It was an unusually tight time frame for a conservation sale, which, as in this case, usually involves financing from more than one source. And financing options were shrinking.

Through long hours, diligent negotiating, a persuasive case for the public good and the trust and bonding that comes from old friendships and shared passions, they made the sale and the deadline.

Kirsten served as the buyer’s agent (a condition imposed by the seller) and then donated $50,000 back to the Land Trust.

Mickey and Pat cheered their daughters on, added historic information to help make the case for funding and delighted in the new alliances being formed in the process.

Wendy and Andrea developed the strategy and negotiated carefully, coming up with $125,000 from the Land Trust for an initial deposit, and then $8.45 million from the Open Space District and $1.5 million from the California Coastal Conservancy. The final piece from the conservancy was the last check issued by the state before its funding freeze took effect; the deal was a cliffhanger to the end.

Now, the mountaintop where Mickey Cooke and Pat Eliot rode their horses as young women in the 1940s has been saved forever as open space by their daughters in the first decade of the 21st century.

The acquisition engaged senior personal in the agencies and non-profits in a way they hadn’t previously experienced, leading to the possibility of future collaborations.

 

~Margaret Spaulding

Sep 092008
 

Diamond A sonoma MountainThe largest subdivision on Sonoma Mountain is known as “Diamond A,” a rural residential community accessed via Grove Street on the SE slope of the mountain. How did this 1,200 acres transition from Miwok hunting grounds to a subdivision of 240 parcels during the past two centuries? Who were the central characters in this history? Was there any public oversight of the subdivision process? Or, was it driven purely by private financial interests? Could it happen again in the 21st century?

In 1769, when the Miwok Indians of the Sonoma Coast first came in contact with Europeans, they numbered about 1500 and their hunting grounds included all of Sonoma Mountain. By 1930, the Miwok numbered about 500, and the mountain had been divided into parcels, and passed through various owners. The coyotes that the Miwok believed to be their ancestor and creator god still prowl the mountain and howl near the ridgeline at night, ignoring the artificial boundaries that have been placed on the land.

From 1834 to 1857 the southern portion of Sonoma Mountain from the Petaluma River to Sonoma Creek was part of “Rancho Petaluma,” a land grant to General Mariano Vallejo. By 1866, when the “Rowe” survey was recorded, the 66,000 acres had been split into many parcels – some sold by General Vallejo, others taken by Anglo squatters.

The 1897 Illustrated Atlas show the unmistakable shape of what was to become Diamond A Ranch, labeled “Henry A. Hardin 1240 acres.” Henry Andrew Hardin was born in Kentucky in 1833, joined an ox team train setting out from Missouri in 1852, and came to Sonoma County. He bought and sold various parcels before buying the 1,240-acre ranch in 1877 from Edward Halloran, which he owned until his death in 1920. After his death, three of his daughters sold the ranch to the Felder family in 1934.

The Felder family owned the ranch briefly and then sold it to the Berrien Anderson family in 1938. In 1961 Anderson sold the ranch for $400,000 to developers Thomas Burke and Jack Fisher.

~Helen Bates

Oct 092007
 

THE RANCH

triangle g ranch petaluma sonoma mountainThe Triangle G (Galvin) Ranch consisted of six parcels which stretched about six miles along the southern ridge of Sonoma Mountain from south of the Route 116 at an elevation of less than 400ft to the northern highest point of 1946 feet about one mile south of the top of Sonoma Mountain. John Galvin bought the Circle W Ranch from George and Mildred Webb in 1954. That Ranch, plus additional parcels later purchased, was known as the Triangle G Ranch. John Galvin, an Australian, worked in Asia for many years as a newspaper reporter. After World War II he got involved in commercial ventures in Asia and ended up making an estimated $375 million. Galvin brought his wife and five children to Woodside, California in 1952 according to San Francisco Chronicle articles. John Galvin is deceased and his five children now own the ranch.

PROPOSED SUBDIVISION

In December, 1996, Redwood California LTD, a Galvin property managed by Bill Brittain, applied to Sonoma County to subdivide five parcels and place 34 building lots in the northern area clustered along the ridge line from 1200 feet of elevation to 1900 feet of elevation where they would be visible from both sides of the mountain. The applicant requested: amendment of the County General Plan, change in zoning, exemption from the regulations governing clustering, and transferring housing destiny into a scenic landscape area. These were among the many problems with the proposed subdivision, which they called the White Oak Estates.

OPPOSITION

In 1997 a committee of volunteer residents of Sonoma Mountain was formed with Ray Barron, Chairman, Stephen Pavy, Treasurer, and John Barinaga, Secretary, to lead opposition to the ridge-top development. There was widespread opposition to the subdivision. The committee met periodically with Supervisor Mike Cale who was clear in his opinion that the proposed projects should not be allowed because it would set a very bad precedent. On February 2, 1997, the Petaluma City Council voted unanimously to ask the County Board of Supervisors not to approve the project as proposed. On February 19, 1997 the Sonoma City Council voted unanimously to go on record with the County Board of Supervisors not to amend the General Plan or zoning to allow such a development.

On April 29, 1997, the Sonoma County Planning Commission held a public hearing on the Galvin application. About a dozen people from the public spoke on the issue. All speakers, except Mr. Morrison, the developer, spoke in opposition to the project for specific reasons. The committee, the George Ranch representative and Sonoma Mountain Preservation, all presented written analysis of the non-compliance aspects of the application

REVISION WITH PARK PROPOSAL

A revision to the White Oak Estates project was submitted to Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department in March 2000. The revised proposal offered to dedicate 394 acres of the Galvin Ranch for a park and offered to sell an additional 266 acres at a price to be negotiated on exchange for the County’s granting of permission for the 34 home subdivision on the ridge of Sonoma Mountain (in violation of the County General Plan) and the County’s provision of the access road by extending Manor Lane. The Environmental Impact Report revision was never completed because the applicant failed to provide funding.

THE OSD OFFER TO PURCHASE

With the spring of 2001 came the good news that the Galvin family would consider selling the bulk of Triangle G Ranch rather than developing it. The Sonoma County Open Space District and the California Coastal Conservancy confirmed in April that they were in negotiations to acquire most of the 1746-acre ranch. Since the original application for subdivision was submitted to the county, the parcel south of State Gulch Road was sold and another 96 acres were leased to the UCC Vineyards Group and planted in grapes.

In January 2002 the Open Space District offer to buy 1626 acres to the Galvin family with the right to build two homes. This ended our hopes, and the hopes of the county supervisors, that the threat of ridge top development would end with the purchase. We do not know what the Galvin family will do with the ranch in the future. Presently the ranch is used for cattle grazing and for grape growing.

~John Barinaga, Sonoma Mountain Preservation