Santa Rosa, CA – May 3, 2017 – In November of 2007, Sonoma Land Trust purchased a 1,665-acre
property in southern Sonoma County at risk of subdivision and vineyard
development and named it Tolay Creek Ranch. The acquisition of Tolay
Creek Ranch also completed the protection of a 7,500-acre wildlife
corridor extending from the
foothills of Sonoma Mountain to the bay.
views of San Francisco Bay, dazzling wildflower displays and plenty of
space for hiking, the ranch was well suited to becoming a park —
particularly since it is situated adjacent to 1,737-acre Tolay Lake Regional Park.
After nearly 10 years of resource
assessments, habitat enhancement and creek restoration
activities, Sonoma Land Trust on March 3, 2017 donated Tolay Creek Ranch
to Sonoma County Regional Parks, a move that doubles the size of Tolay
“We acquired Tolay Creek Ranch to protect the land and
restore the creek, and also to add the property to Tolay Lake Regional
Park,” says Dave Koehler, Sonoma Land Trust executive director. “The
ranch has a biologically and culturally rich landscape, and we are
delighted that our Regional Parks
partner will ensure that current and future generations will
enjoy and care for this special place.”
Creek Ranch is located in southern Sonoma County between Lakeville
Highway and Highway 121, north of Highway 37 and approximately 8 miles
south of Sonoma and seven miles southeast of Petaluma. It provides
important wildlife connectivity to existing protected and natural lands,
Tolay Lake Regional Park with other protected lands
downstream and along the bay, including Sonoma Land Trust’s Sears Point
Wetland Restoration Project. Like neighboring Tolay Lake park, Tolay
Creek Ranch was also a significant center of Native American life.
part of the acquisition project in 2007, the Sonoma County Agricultural
Preservation and Open Space District purchased a conservation easement
over the property that prohibits all development and allows grazing,
public access, habitat and riparian restoration, and park expansion.
acquiring this property, our vision has always been to restore the
watershed and turn it over to Regional Parks to manage for resource
protection and public enjoyment,” continues Koehler. “We are pleased to
have accomplished that.”
Restoring the creek and ranchland
ranch’s grasslands provide habitat for a variety of bird species, as
well as deer, small mammals and mid-sized carnivores, like coyotes and
bobcats. Containing three miles of Tolay Creek, it also provides
important habitat for amphibians and waterfowl. Additionally, the ranch
is home to protected
species, such as burrowing owls and golden eagles, which
visitors may be fortunate enough to see.
the years leading to Sonoma Land Trust’s acquisition of the property,
up to 40 homes and vineyards were proposed for the ranch’s hilltops.
Instead, the last 10 years have seen a number of activities aimed at
restoring the natural landscape. Several thousand students from the
(Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed) program, from
kindergarten through high school, have planted thousands of native trees
and plants along the banks of Tolay Creek to restore needed vegetation
and halt erosion; and miles of new, wildlife-friendlier fencing have
been added to the property to better manage
cattle. The longtime rancher, who has grazed the property
for more than 35 years, has worked with the Land Trust over the last
decade to change the ranching practices to improve the grasslands and
the water quality in Tolay Creek.
Future plans for the property and park
Land Trust has conducted public hikes on the property several times a
year and, once Tolay Lake Regional Park fully opens later this year,
visitors will be able to enjoy the property daily. Due to its relatively
flat topography, an easy walk along the ridgetop provides hikers with
views of Petaluma, San Francisco Bay, Tolay Lake and Tolay
Creek, and there are miles of trails for hardy hikers.
The property now comprising Tolay Lake Regional Park
was purchased in 2005 by the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation
& Open Space District and transferred to Regional Parks. Since then,
the park has been open weekends for hiking, birding, biking and
horseback riding through a permit
Regional Parks is completing an extensive
master-planning process to guide future recreational uses and
conservation efforts for both the Tolay Lake and Tolay Creek properties.
Their combined 3,400 acres make Tolay Lake Regional Park the largest in
the county parks system. The Sonoma County Board
of Supervisors is expected to approve the master plan this
spring, and Regional Parks aims to open the expanded park for daily use
later this year.
“This has been one of the most complex
park-planning projects in our history and the public has waited
patiently for full access,” says Supervisor David Rabbitt, whose 2nd
District includes the park. “With the master plan review, we are much
closer to opening the gates and letting people enjoy
this unique park.”
The park currently offers more than
8 miles of trails, with the master plan suggesting an eventual 32-mile
trail system along with backcountry camping, a visitor’s center, picnic
areas and environmental restorations.
“Our goal is to open the
Tolay Creek addition this fall at the same time Tolay Lake Park will be
opened to the general public,” says Regional Parks Director Caryl Hart.
“We are very grateful to Sonoma Land Trust for this spectacular
About Sonoma Land Trust
Sonoma Land Trust
believes land is the foundation of our economy and our community’s
health and well-being. Since 1976, Sonoma Land Trust has protected
nearly 50,000 acres of scenic, natural, agricultural and open land for
future generations, and is accredited by the Land Trust
Accreditation Commission. For more information, please visit
About Sonoma County Regional Parks
Regional Parks system includes more than 50 parks, trails and beaches.
Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017, Regional Parks creates healthy
communities and contributes to Sonoma County’s economic vitality by
offering opportunities for outdoor recreation and education, and by
and cultural resources.