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Close to Home: Preserving Sonoma Valley land

  • The Sonoma Developmental Center sits on the last large undeveloped property in Sonoma Valley. The nearly 1,000-acre state site is home to many native plants and animals. (Conner Jay / The Press Democrat)

The Sonoma Land Trust, perhaps the county’s most outstanding land preservation group with a long and unmatched history, is eager and dedicated to preserving Sonoma Development Center land and maintaining the vital services that have been provided there for its population.

The Land Trust has joined with a coalition of other preservation groups including the Sonoma County Open Space District, Sonoma County Regional Parks Department, Sonoma Ecology Center, Sonoma Mountain Preservation and the Valley of the Moon Natural History Association.

The Land Trust has this to say: “At almost 1,000 acres, the Sonoma Developmental Center property is the largest and most significant unprotected land in the Sonoma Valley. In addition to providing services for developmentally disabled individuals, this property is situated at the heart of the Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor, a crucial passage for wildlife that extends over five miles from Sonoma Mountain to the Mayacamas Mountains and is at risk of being developed.”

According to the Land Trust, the Coalition is working to:

• Retain the Sonoma Developmental Center services on the property and explore other appropriate uses within the footprint of the facilities.

• Advocate for the permanent protection of the open land on the Sonoma Development Center property and the essential services it provides, such as habitat and movement corridors for wildlife, clean and ample drinking water, a place of beauty for us to enjoy and carbon sequestration, among many others.

• Expand public access and recreation opportunities that are compatible with the protection of the property’s conservation values, “including the development of new trails and connections to existing trails on Sonoma Mountain, and potentially across Sonoma Valley to the complex of protected lands within the Mayacamas Mountains.”

The state has in the past and is currently looking to sell Sonoma Development Center and other regional developmental centers because it wants the money for these lands and not the expense of caring for the profoundly ill patients who inhabit these centers. In order for SDC to remain and maintain its current use, it would have to generate the revenue to do so without the state’s aid. This is unfortunate, but it is the current reality.

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