Sonoma County Coalition Strives to Protect Local Developmental Center and Wilderness Range
Greenbelt Alliance’s signature At Risk is the definitive research on the Bay Area’s farms, ranches, and natural areas at risk of being lost forever to sprawl development. In an effort to bring these lands to the public view, we have real life stories told by the dedicated local residents who fight to keep them free from sprawl.
Sonoma County, the Bay Area’s largest county, has in recent years made perhaps the region’s largest strides in land protection. Today, the county has 58,400 acres of total land at risk of development over the next 30 years. It has 4,100 acres at high risk—threatened in the next 10 years—a number that has dropped by 70 percent since 2012. And though Sonoma still has more total land at risk than any county but Contra Costa, its total land at risk has been cut in half in just five years, thanks to a recent vote to extend greenbelt protections.
“It’s a resource for wildlife, and for people who really need it. Developing the land will destroy a resource that can’t be replaced.” Studies show that being in nature is good for our mental health; for Kathleen Miller, it has been a lifesaver. Kathleen’s son Danny has lived for many years at the Sonoma Developmental Center, which cares for people with developmental disabilities and mental illness.
The center sits amid an idyllic 900-acre expanse of redwood forests, grasslands, and oak woodlands along Sonoma Creek. Most of this land is left alone, which has allowed wildlife —from bobcats to threatened steelhead trout—to thrive. But the state is planning to close the 120-year-old facility, and the land is at risk.
To preserve this rare resource, the families of patients have joined with the Sonoma Land Trust, the Sonoma Ecology Center and the community of Sonoma Valley in a coalition called Transform SDC. Together, they’re seeking to keep safety-net services for the most disabled, while protecting the land for wildlife habitat and recreation. It’s an unusual alliance to save a unique place.
“Nothing like this place could be created now,” says Kathleen. “All we can do is save it.”
Learn more and download the At Risk 201 7 report here.
Photos by Dani Padgett ©