According to a March 23, 2021 press release, the Board of Directors for the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District (Ag + Open Space) approved $5.8 million in grants for 2020. This is a matching grant program, “which solicits applications every two years. The intent is to provide funding for acquisition, restoration, and recreational development projects” offering benefits to cities and the county. This cycle, six projects throughout the county were selected. They will add 145 acres of “new and enhanced parks, trail additions and several new access points to existing local parks.”
Among the six projects approved was the Crane Creek Regional Park Expansion & Copeland Creek Trail Extension. The grant was for $1,360,600. It combines acquisition and improvement for public access into the project. It also includes recreation development and restoration elements. According to the press release “residents of Rohnert Park and the surrounding area can look forward to a 75-acre major expansion of Crane Creek Regional Park with added trails, new park connections to the City of Rohnert Park and Sonoma State, and a safe connection for pedestrians and bikers visiting via the nearby SMART station.”
The Crane Creek project was the largest grant this cycle. Three others were funded for a million dollars each. One was a Santa Rosa project involving 10 acres, for “A Place to Play Community Park Improvements.” Another was a Healdsburg project for the “Healdsburg Montage Development Park” covering 36 acres of acquisition and improvement. The third million-dollar grant was for a 21-acre project for the Petaluma River Park Foundation that is listed as improvement of public access and recreation development and restoration. Two smaller projects also received funding. Sonoma County Regional Parks was awarded $795,000 to improve public access of about .7 acres for the Bodega Bay Trail – Coastal North Harbor. The Town of Windsor was also granted $650,000 to acquire and provide public access to the Keiser Park Expansion project involving 2.3 acres.
At the beginning of the 2020 cycle, Ag + Open Space planned for a budget of four million dollars for this program. However, the staff was “able to find savings in previously approved projects.” This allowed them to recommend increasing the total awards for this cycle. They considered the applications “particularly strong” and when a dip in local sales tax because of the pandemic wasn’t as deep as expected they were able to fund all six projects. According to Lynda Hopkins, the current Board Chair and Fifth District Supervisor, “Connecting with the outdoors has been more critical than ever this year, so a substantial investment in protecting open space within our cities and towns is absolutely money well spent.”
According to their website the mission of the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District is to permanently protect “the diverse agricultural, natural resource, and scenic open space lands of Sonoma County for future generations.” Their goals include:
• Maintain the county’s rich rural character and the unique qualities of each city and areas throughout the county that help provide our sense of community.
• Support the economic vitality of working farms to preserve the agricultural heritage and diversity of the county.
• Protect the ridgetops, coastal bluffs, hillsides, and waterways that create the county’s striking natural beauty.
• Provide connections between urban areas, parks, and natural areas throughout the county for both people and wildlife.
• Preserve diverse natural areas that provide habitat for wildlife.
• Protect the waterways and natural lands that maintain water quality and supply.
• Partner with local agencies and organizations to leverage funding for land protection, foster stewardship and provide opportunities for recreational and educational experiences.
For more information about this organization, visit their website at: https://www.sonomaopenspace.org/.