SonomaMtn

Nov 122020
 

Glen Ellen and Eldridge/SDC Are Inseparable: 
This Reality Needs to Be Reflected in The SDC Specific Plan

This clear and impassioned description of the relationship between Glen Ellen and Eldridge/SDC was written by Tracey Salcedo, Glen Ellen resident and member of the Leadership Team of the SDC Coalition. As work on the SDC Specific Plan continues, SMP supports this view.

After a long lull, the specific planning process for the former Sonoma Development Center property is kicking back into gear. The focus is on Eldridge, but the fact is that, given the intimate ties between Eldridge and Glen Ellen, my little hometown is also entering a brave new phase of its existence.

As I’ve encountered proposals for Eldridge and participated in the planning process, I’ve been struck by the fact that, over and over again, the ties between the two places are either overlooked or misunderstood. While I find it disappointing that explaining the ties would be necessary at this stage of the game, it’s also an opportunity. And it has an unanticipated upside: I’ve once again fallen in love with you, Glen Ellen. 

The Basics 

  • Glen Ellen and Eldridge are inseparable. If you look at a map, you’ll see that Eldridge is completely surrounded by Glen Ellen. As one local community leader put it, Eldridge is the hole in the Glen Ellen donut.
  • What happens to Eldridge happens to Glen Ellen. If Eldridge becomes a resort, Glen Ellen becomes a resort. If Eldridge is urbanized, Glen Ellen is urbanized. If Eldridge becomes a model of sustainability and resiliency, Glen Ellen becomes a model of sustainability and resiliency.
  • Eldridge is not a blank slate. Eldridge is now empty, hence the illusion. But Eldridge exists as part of Glen Ellen. Since their genesis in the nineteenth century, the twin villages have grown in tandem and possess the same intimate connections to the region’s wild places and to a legacy of caring. This connection can’t be monetized, but that doesn’t make the connection less valuable than money.

Glen Ellen in a Nutshell

  • Glen Ellen is a small, tight-knit, rural village of about 700 households at its center, and more within the sprawling 95442 zip code.
  • This language comes from the Land Use element of Sonoma County’s General Plan: Glen Ellen is a small village along Arnold Drive west of State Highway 12 … About 70 percent of the community is rural with rural residential and agricultural zoning.
  • From the Glen Ellen Development and Design Guidelines: The small town character of Glen Ellen promotes a sense of community and an inherent openness which recognizes personal freedoms and varied lifestyles. The maintenance and enhancement of this small town character is of utmost importance to its residents.
  • On the ground, Glen Ellen’s rural residential character looks like this: Homes on the north side of the Eldridge campus are on larger parcels, with the exception of those closest to the “downtown” area. It’s country living. On the south side of the Eldridge campus homes are closer together, but the mood is the same. It’s still country living. Whether you live in the apartments on Madrone or tucked in the woods on London Ranch Road, you live in a small town. You know the people in line with you at the grocery store. You meet up with neighbors to take a walk in the park or along the winding country roads. Your kids go to school and play sports with the neighbor kids, while you volunteer with the neighbors in classrooms or visit on the sidelines. You dance in the streets with your neighbors every October during the village fair.
  • A growing number of second home owners have purchased in Glen Ellen for the same reason full-time residents do—because it is rural, charming, and friendly. These part-time residents boost the economy of Sonoma Valley when they’re in town, while their absences add to the quiet of village life.

A Matter of Scale

The argument that Eldridge should be able to accommodate thousands of residents and workers because it used to house and employ thousands of residents and workers is not valid. At its most populous, most of the residents of Eldridge did not leave Eldridge. They couldn’t, because they were disabled. To drop an equal number of people who are not disabled into the same place doesn’t replicate Eldridge, it blows Eldridge up (and Glen Ellen with it). 

Many wonderful, innovative ideas have been proposed as part of the redevelopment process. Data collated as part of the previous community workshops supports these ideals. Bring on housing that’s affordable. Bring on housing for the developmentally disabled. Bring on community gardens and biodiverse agriculture. Bring on post-petroleum technologies. Bring on sustainable businesses. Bring on an “institute” that researches and implements principles of resiliency. Bring on visiting scholars. Bring on innovation.

But bring it on at a scale that both fits and benefits the village that already exists, on both sides of SDC. Bring it on recognizing that the existing village already embraces and lives by these ideals. Bring it on at a scale that ensures the children of local residents, as well as the greater community, can find their place here. Bring it on at the scale that enables the residents of the existing village to feel safe, and that cultivates, rather than dilutes, the small-town, natural values that drew us here and have kept us here.

To do this, it must be understood that the existing village is as important as the goal.

The Importance of Transparency

A number of proposals have emerged, developed by small groups of people reimagining what can happen on the property. There’s CEPEC, there’s the SDC Campus Project, there’s CAFF, there’s the Eldridge Enterprise, and there are other plans, without doubt, in the works.

The assumption of some committee members of the Glen Ellen Forum, and of the larger community, has been that the specific planning process, and the proposals it generates, would be community-driven. Most of the circulating proposals remain outside the specific planning process. The Eldridge Enterprise, developed by a “working group” of the SDC Coalition, is a troubling exception, especially as it begins recruiting endorsements. It is not community-driven. The specific planning process for Eldridge must remain transparent, otherwise trust in a community-driven process is broken.

The Myth of NIMBY

With the formation of the Glen Ellen Forum in 2016, Glen Ellen has helped host forward-facing community workshops to shape a vision and guiding principles for Eldridge’s redevelopment. The community’s approach to that redevelopment is pragmatic and realistic, but constrained by the realities of being unincorporated.

We know change is inevitable. All we want—and I feel confident saying “we” here, because Glen Ellenites helped collate the feedback from the Hanna and Dunbar workshops—is for change to be moderated so that the existing community survives and has the ability to define itself, even as it absorbs change. The interests of the immediate community should carry the same weight as the interests of prospective developers, the broader community, and private, commercial, nonprofit, and political interests.

A Vision for Eldridge

“Eldridge is a place where people of diverse backgrounds and interests live and work together, where natural resources are conserved and enhanced, concepts of sustainability and resiliency are put into practice, cultural legacies are honored, and compatibility with surrounding communities is preserved.

—Vision Statement Developed for Community Consideration at the Hanna Workshop, June 2019

As we’ve had to circle up, yet again, to create a vision for the site, I feel like we, as representatives from Glen Ellen, are now outside the process. We are forced to be reactive to proposals developed outside the process, rather than proactive in helping develop proposals. In light of recent developments, I have to ask: What does community-driven mean? To me, it means that no matter where proposals originate, whether in the city of Sonoma, or Oakmont, or Santa Rosa, or the hills of Healdsburg, they reflect not only the desires of their proponents, but also an understanding of what is fundamental: Glen Ellen and Eldridge are inseparable. What happens to Eldridge happens to Glen Ellen.

Look at it this way: Glen Ellen is the village about to be inundated by the dam. The powers-that-be believe the dam is a greater good, and the little village in the valley should just roll over and accept obliteration. My response is, if you inundate Glen Ellen and Eldridge—their rural characters, the peace that comes when you drive up Arnold Drive into the embrace of oaks and open space—you destroy exactly what you seek to exploit.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: The residents of Glen Ellen will be the most profoundly impacted of all communities by what happens in Eldridge. Everyone else gets to go home, but we have to live with it—the density, the traffic, the change. All we want to do is inform that change.

Community is priceless. And worth fighting for.

Feb 072020
 

Heart full of trails, head full of leave no trace

By Tracy Salcedo

I am an outlaw. A trespasser.

And worse, I’m a repeat offender, in cahoots with other scofflaws like myself. Many of us here in Glen Ellen – heck, throughout Sonoma Valley – are members of a gang that regularly, without malice and pretty much without thinking, trespass on Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) property. We’ve been doing it for decades.

In our defense, it’s hard to avoid. Formal trails in Sonoma Valley Regional Park and Jack London State Historic Park merge seamlessly onto Eldridge’s web of informal trails. I was introduced to some favorite paths by friends and neighbors; some I just tripped onto while wandering, because… well, I love exploring in the woods. Hence my vocation: hiking guidebook writer. Go figure.

Also in our defense, it’s not like California’s Department of Developmental Services (DDS) has been overzealous about enforcing its no trespassing rule – to its credit. The people working for DDS understood that the open spaces so critical to the health of SDC residents were also critical to the health of their neighbors. There was a posse for a time, comprised of good-hearted, civic-minded folk who asked walkers to put their dogs back on leashes and kids to stay out of the reservoirs (fishing and swimming are also prohibited). But as activity at SDC waned, the posse disappeared. Without those gentle reminders (and the threat of citation), dogs have come off their leashes, and some swimmers and anglers have as well.

Here’s my conundrum: As a guidebook writer and a passionate outdoorswoman, I’m pretty religious about doing right by the wildlands I love. I only write about legal trails, because I have seen firsthand the damage wrought by social trails – the informal paths people carve into landscapes because they want to take a shortcut. I don’t litter. I pick up other people’s litter. I don’t collect artifacts from the places I go. I don’t walk or ride on mucky trails after rainstorms. So I have a hard time reconciling the notion that I’ve been trespassing in Eldridge for the past twenty-plus years. I also understand why the recent letter from California’s Department of General Services (DGS) caused such consternation and confusion.

That said, I also get DGS’s motivations: reducing liability, keeping people safe, ensuring protection of the property’s natural and man-made resources. The huge question of which trails are, and should remain, open around Lake Suttonfield and Fern Lake must be negotiated with the understanding that both access and the wildlands can be wisely and properly conserved. This will take time.

But I can do something, right now, to help. I’ve incorporated boilerplate language in each of my guides designed to help all trail users do right by the open spaces they love, like Eldridge. Because it’s not just about accessibility. It’s also about place.

These guidelines are born of a simple philosophy: Leave no trace. You can visit www.LNT.org for more information, but here are the basics:

Pack out all your own trash, including biodegradable items like orange peels. Take it a step further by packing out garbage left by less-considerate hikers. Stuff it in a pocket, in your pack, in your hiking partner’s pack. Litter has no place in open space.

Protect wildlife, your pet’s life, and fellow trail users by keeping dogs on leash at all times. Take responsibility for your dog’s behavior. And remember, your dog’s poop is not welcome anywhere, so pick it up and carry it out.

Leave wildflowers, rocks, antlers, feathers, and other treasures where you find them. Removing these items degrades natural values and takes away from the next explorer’s experience.

Remain on established routes to avoid damaging soils, tiny creatures, and flora. This is also a good rule of thumb for avoiding poison oak and stinging nettle, common regional trailside irritants.

Don’t cut switchbacks; this promotes erosion and creates ugly scars on the landscape.

Sound travels easily in the backcountry, especially across water, so avoid making loud noises. Make sure your cell phone is on mute, and use it only in case of emergency. If you must listen to music, conduct business, or help solve your best friend’s romantic issues while on the trail, speak softly and use ear buds, not the speaker function.

Many trails are multiuse, which means you’ll share them with other hikers, trail runners, mountain bikers, and equestrians. Generally, hikers yield to equestrians, and mountain bikers yield to all trail users. If you are hiking in a group and encounter other hikers on a narrow trail, whether passing or coming in the opposite direction, proceed in single file. Generally, the uphill hiker has the right-of-way. But common sense should prevail in all trail user encounters. Talk to each other, and share responsibly.

Use outhouses at trailheads. If nature calls while you’re on the trail, pack your poop and your toilet paper out like you would pack out your dog’s waste. You can also carry a lightweight trowel to bury human waste 6–8 inches deep and at least 200 feet from any water source.

Don’t approach or feed any wild creatures. Honestly, they are avoiding you. That cute squirrel eyeing your snack food is best able to survive if it sticks to acorns. The rattlesnake knows you’re too big to waste its venom on; heed its warning, keep your distance, and it won’t bite. The mountain lion has tastier things to eat, so should you meet one on the trail, talk to it, make yourself bigger, and back away slowly. Running makes you look like prey.

If we leave no trace, we do no harm. On any trail, permitted or not, we have the power and obligation to set the example. Perhaps others will follow, and maybe, eventually, no one will leave a trace. We may be trespassers on Eldridge’s trails (for the time being), but instead of a gang of scofflaws, we can be a gang of stewards.

Apr 062019
 

SDC 3-Year Agreement Between County and State

If you are interested in details of the agreement between the State and County regarding the SDC “hybrid” transition plans, the four documents below provide a fairly robust idea of what’s going to be happening.

The State has committed to $11-12 million/year for 3 years of maintenance. The County has committed to making a Specific Plan, changing zoning, doing Design Guidelines (see current Sonoma Mountain Design Guidelines at http://sonomamountain.org/design-guidelines/), and other planning measures. All monies spent by the County on this, up to $3.5 million, will be reimbursed by the State.

Of note is that housing will definitely be part of the developed footprint mix.

Also of note going forward (though not part of the documents), is that SMP has been a part of the SDC Land Committee for several years. There is a strong collaborative vision for what should happen on the 745 acres of open space. On the 200 acres of the developed “footprint,” we have suggested creek setbacks, wildlife corridor protections, and other ecologically sustainable measures.

SDC Summary SDC Summary

Attachment A Budgetary Resolution Attachment A Budgetary Resolution

Attachment B Resolution Regarding Land Use Planning and Disposition of the SDC Site Attachment B Resolution Regarding Land Use Planning and Disposition of the SDC Site

Attachment C SDC Transition Proposal Attachment C SDC Transition Proposal

posted  4.5.19

Apr 022019
 

SDC Agreement—Woo Hoo!

Legislators Announce Tentative Agreement on Sonoma Development Center 4/2/19

ELDRIDGE – Senators Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, Bill Dodd, D-Napa, and Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters, announced today a tentative agreement on the Sonoma Development Center that will empower neighbors, the community, and the County of Sonoma to conduct a comprehensive community planning process focused on the potential future uses of the Sonoma Developmental Center, while also protecting the sacred open spaces of the undeveloped land.

The framework is the result of a three-and-a-half-year collaborative process between the Sonoma County Legislative Delegation, state agencies, and local stakeholders led by the county.

“This plan ensures a community-driven approach to the reuse of the core campus while preserving undeveloped land as public parkland and open space,” said Sen. Dodd. “I want to thank Senator McGuire, Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry, the governor’s team and our local partners for all their work to get to this point. We need to leave future generations a vibrant, sustainable world, and this property should come to reflect that vision.”

“We have always committed to an open, transparent and community-driven process on the future of the Sonoma Developmental Center, and this plan will do just that,” Sen. McGuire said. “We are grateful for the partnership of Senator Dodd, Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry, the County of Sonoma and the Governor’s Office for the collaborative first-of-its-kind approach for the future of this sacred site.”

“I am proud of the many hours that Senator Dodd, Senator McGuire, the Administration, Sonoma County, and the community have put into making sure that the plan for the disposition of the Sonoma Developmental Center results in a safe, respectful, and beautiful property for the long term,” said Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry. “This agreement takes into account the importance of local engagement and County leadership in the development of the scoping plan.”

“The state, county, and community have worked hard to pull together this agreement, the first of its kind in the State of California.  We extend sincere thank yous to our state elected delegation, state agencies and the county to get us to this point.  But this is just the beginning of the process for the community to work together to develop a vision for the future of the Sonoma Development Center in recognition of its special place in our valley,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin.

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to hold a special hearing at 9:30 am this Friday, April 5 to hear from legislators and state agency representatives, including state General Services Director, Daniel Kim. The board is expected to vote at the hearing to direct staff to initiate the local planning process set forth in the agreement.

The deal outlines state funding for a county-managed specific plan land use process, including a robust community engagement process focused on transition and overall vision and related environmental review. During this time, which is expected to take a few years, the state will continue to control and operate the property. That includes all funding needs encompassing on-going maintenance, security, firefighting, landscaping and fire prevention. The agreement, which will be described in detail at Friday’s board meeting, will also outline the tentative plan to preserve the open space and woodlands as public parkland and wildlife habitat. This preservation of open space could include a future collaboration with state parks, regional parks, or a combination.

The Sonoma Developmental Center opened in 1891 as a state-run residential care facility dedicated to serving individuals with developmental disabilities. Located in Eldridge near the community of Glen Ellen, the property is comprised of a developed campus covering approximately 180 acres and approximately 700 acres of open space adjacent to the Sonoma Valley Regional Park and the Jack London State Historic Park.

In the October 2015 plan for the closure of the Sonoma Developmental Center, the Department of Developmental Services recognized the unique natural and historic resources of the property and acknowledged that it was not the intent of the state to follow the traditional state surplus property process. The Department of Developmental Services concluded residential operations at the Sonoma Developmental Center in December 2018 after relocating all residents to homes in the community.

Apr 242018
 

Sense of Place: Two-day Trek Across the Mountain

On SMP’s first 2-day hike across the Mountain, a small group of intrepid hikers got to sleep overnight on private land and spend a fabulous two days trekking. Sponsored by Landpaths in honor of Pat Eliot, and led by SMP’s own Arthur Dawson and TrekSonoma’s Meghan Walla-Murphy, the trek offered amazing wildflowers, spectacular views, deep learning about plant healing properties, catered meals, and great conversations.

The group hiked from North Sonoma Mountain Ridge Trail to Jack London State Historic park——Cowan Meadow Trail, Mountain Trail, camping near Vineyard Trail, Coon Trap Trail (steep!!!)——up to East Slope Ridge Trail, and shuttled out through private property.

Highlights: Prolific Canyon Delphinium & Mission Bells, leafing oaks, paths lined with poppies and lupine, a mountain Lion territorial marking along Coon Trap trail.

Here are a few photos to give you a sense of place. 

Jan 112017
 

SMP Founder Pat Eliot Dies

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

http://www.sonomacf.org/big-birder-bigger-heart/

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

Jul 242016
 

Community Separators Go to the Ballot! 

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
 

Protecting Green Places Between Our Cities

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

May 312015
 

The Story of the Mountain and the Oak

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.

Mar 162015
 

East Slope Ridge Trail now connects with Jack London trails!

East Slope Ridge Trail open, thanks to Pat and Ted Eliot and many others who worked on it for 20 years! Thanks to Paul martin, ©Vineyard Productions 2015 for photos…

View east to Mt. Diablo

East Slope Trail
East Slope Trail - JLSHP-7 copy
East Slope Trail
East Slope Trail - JLSHP-330

View south to San FranciscoCutting ribbon to open trail on 3/14/15Happy hikers and ribbon-cutters!