President, Landis PR
SANTA ROSA, CALIF. — By the end of this month, Sonoma Land Trust expects to acquire 29 acres known as the “Curreri property” along Highway 12 in Glen Ellen, with partial funding from the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District. Upon close of escrow, the Land Trust will immediately transfer the property to Sonoma County Regional Parks to be added to the 162-acre Sonoma Valley Regional Park. On Tuesday, October 14, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors will be asked to approve a general plan amendment and zoning change that will facilitate this land transaction. On October 21, the Board will consider the final funding authorization for the District’s share of the purchase price.
“The District is pleased to be a partner with Sonoma Land Trust on the acquisition of the Curreri property,” says Bill Keene, District general manager. “It features a dramatic hillside backdrop to Glen Ellen, preserves an important wildlife corridor connection and is a great addition to Sonoma Valley Regional Park. The purchase of this multi-benefit property is an excellent example of what the voters who created the District intended to fund.”
The significance of this property
The Curreri property sits in the “pinchpoint” of the imperiled Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor, which stretches east to west across the Sonoma Valley, connecting more than 9,000 acres of protected wildlife habitat in the Mayacamas and on Sonoma Mountain. The pinchpoint indicates where the corridor has been narrowed considerably due to the combined influences of development and geography, restricting where animals like mountain lion, bear, fox, bobcat and others may safely traverse the Valley floor. Acquisition of the Curreri parcel is a critical component of Sonoma Land Trust’s overall strategy to protect the corridor by purchasing properties, collaborating with local landowners on wildlife-friendly management and conducting scientific research.
“The importance of this acquisition belies its smaller acreage,” says John McCaull, Sonoma Land Trust project manager. “Like a puzzle, sometimes it is the smaller pieces that make everything come together.”
Along with its value for wildlife, the Curreri property offers panoramic views of the Sonoma Valley, Sonoma Mountain, the Mayacamas Range, and San Pablo and San Francisco Bays. It also harbors iconic oak woodlands, as well as grasslands, a seasonal wetland and a year-round spring-fed pond.
The threat to this landscape being developed is real. Because the 29 acres have been maintained in their natural state, this property is highly vulnerable to estate and vineyard development, the dominant land uses in the area. “For my family, this is a legacy issue,” said Paul Curreri, who explored the property as a child. “Our land is really more valuable as a place where children can connect with nature and wildlife can continue to roam.”
Developed in partnership with the Land Trust, the District will hold an innovative conservation easement that will protect the property’s natural resources and its essential function as part of the wildlife corridor. Some elements of public use and recreation may impact wildlife presence and movement through the corridor, but by carefully considering biological surveys, the Land Trust’s monitoring efforts, and input from corridor ecologists during the pending update to the park’s master plan, the Curreri Family’s vision for this important property can be achieved.
Sonoma Land Trust and the Curreris entered into a purchase agreement in October 2013, which has been extended through October 2014. The entire property consists of 35.36 acres, 6.39 of which are already developed and will be retained by the Curreri Family. The total purchase price is $1,110,054, with the District contributing $526,500 for the conservation easement over the 28.97-acre acquisition portion of the property. Additionally, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, which has helped finance the Land Trust’s other purchases in the Wildlife Corridor, is providing $573,554, and the Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation is contributing $10,000. Additionally, the Regional Parks Department is asking the District for $77,613 to cover master-planning of the park expansion and initial public access.
“We look forward to considering the acquisition of the Curreri property,” says Susan Gorin, Board Director of the District and First District County Supervisor. “This great collaboration among our County agencies and Sonoma Land Trust will benefit both wildlife and park users, and help retain the beauty of Sonoma Valley for generations to come.”
This acquisition is contingent on Board approval of a general plan amendment and zoning change to allow for a lot-line adjustment to expand Sonoma Valley Regional Park, and to create a properly zoned legal lot that includes the existing structures to be retained by the Curreris, who wish to live there.
Regional Parks’ staff will begin planning for public access this winter. Meanwhile, interim use of the site’s existing trails will commence next spring and trail improvements could begin as early as next fall, once the park’s master plan is amended to include the Curreri addition. “We are thrilled to be able to add such a crucial piece of land to Sonoma Valley Regional Park, with its importance to wildlife movement, the viewshed and its significant beauty,” says Regional Parks director Caryl Hart.
“The Curreri property will be a sweet addition to Sonoma Valley Regional Park,” concludes Ralph Benson, Sonoma Land Trust executive director. “We hope people will enjoy it forever.”
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 over 50,000 acres of scenic, natural, agricultural and open land for future generations, and is accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission.
About Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District
The Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District permanently protects the diverse agricultural, natural resource and scenic open space lands of Sonoma County for future generations. Since 1990, the District has protected more than 109,000 acres. Agricultural and open space lands have been protected through a 1/4-cent sales tax approved by voters in 1990 and reauthorized in 2006. For more information, please visit www.sonomaopenspace.org.
About Sonoma County Regional Parks
The Regional Parks represent the natural beauty and diversity of Sonoma County. The Regional Parks include more than 50 parks and trails throughout Sonoma County, from Petaluma to Gualala and from Sonoma to Bodega Bay. The Regional Parks offer opportunities for recreation, education and conservation, enhancing the quality of life and well-being of Sonoma County residents and visitors. For more information, visit sonomacountyparks.org.