Strategic Plan 2023–2028
PROVIDING ACCESS TO NATURE
There is a growing recognition that access to parks and open space is critical to the physical and mental health and well-being of a community. Nature also provides cities with a necessary and tangible buffer against the worst effects of climate change – especially heat waves, floods, and droughts. Yet, many of our community members do not have equitable access to nature and live more than a 10-minute walk from a readily accessible park or open space area. With the push to build much-needed housing in Sonoma County, it is imperative that access to nature is included in new community design, and that past oversights are corrected.
One in four people living in Sonoma County do not have a park located within the recommended half-mile walking distance of their home. This inequity is disproportionately distributed among communities of color, urban residents, and lower-income communities. Without access to parks, people have fewer recreational opportunities, increased physical health risks from poor air quality, and hotter temperatures due to a lack of grass, trees, and water to offset the heat retained in buildings and roads in the urban core.
Green spaces make more urbanized areas healthier by lowering temperatures, improving air quality, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, absorbing and storing stormwater, and providing opportunities for recreation. Through the acquisition and transfer of land to park agencies and nonprofits, we are providing new public spaces that improve the overall health of the community while also making them more climate resilient. Our work recognizes the right of everyone to have access to nature in urban areas by facilitating inclusive planning with cities, neighborhood groups and residents on general plans and park master plans.
Ensure equitable access to nature through parks and open space for all people in Sonoma County. Increase the number, variety, and proximity of natural places so that all members of our diverse community can benefit from the social, public health, and climate benefits parks and open spaces provide.
Why this matters
Marginalized communities have the least access to natural and open spaces, including public parks, and are most impacted by the negative effects of climate change. This disparity must be addressed in how and where we prioritize our investments and actions by promoting a nature nearby program to increase availability to parks in our community. By addressing access to parks, we are also providing a solution to the leading cause of weather-related fatalities in the US, — excessive heat events which disproportionately affect communities of color.
Sonoma Land Trust will prioritize the purchase and preservation of land that creates, connects, and expands parks across neighborhoods most in need of publicly accessible open spaces. We will partner with local tribes to increase access and ownership of culturally significant lands, and work with historically marginalized communities to identify and pursue opportunities to remove barriers for Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) residents. In addition, we will work to facilitate, inform, and support the planning and design of parks that reflect the desires and needs of the community while addressing the impacts of a changing climate.
What We’ll Do
Expand access for communities in areas without enough parks
We will identify future park sites by prioritizing neighborhoods that are lacking in public open space and are at greater risk from climate impacts like heat islands. We will then offer support to city park departments and community groups to develop community-driven park design processes. Our goal is to create parks and open spaces in densely populated neighborhoods, where equitable access to nature is most needed. This work includes the Santa Rosa Southeast Greenway and its connections to Taylor Mountain, and lands along the Petaluma River to create a new network of trails and bike paths.
Partner with Indigenous groups for access and ownership
By pursuing partnerships with Indigenous communities and tribal governments, we will work to protect, conserve, and provide access to land for culturally or ecologically significant uses and explore “land back” opportunities where tribal and Indigenous ownership and management is of interest. The aim of this work is to help support Indigenous peoples’ continued relationships and close connections with their ancestral landscapes.
Increasing connectivity between existing state, county and city parks
Working with federal, state, and local park agencies, we will take the lead on the acquisition of lands to expand existing parks, establish new trail connections between parks, and create more wilderness opportunities closer to home for Sonoma County residents. These projects will provide natural infrastructure benefits, protect rare or unique habitat areas, reduce flooding or wildfire risk, and expand park and open space opportunities in marginalized communities that are especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. This work includes Sonoma Mountain Vernal Pools, McCormick Ranch and the Sonoma Developmental Center.