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Acquisition expands Hood Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve

Sonoma County Regional Parks has acquired 120 acres on the western flank of Hood Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve above the Sonoma Valley, a strategic expansion that will preserve scenic views and wildlife habitat, offer new recreation opportunities, and support future wildfire defense.

Known as Cougar Landing, the property is surrounded on three sides by the 2,000-acre park and is in clear view of the park’s recently opened Lawson Trail terminus. The recent owner agreed to a $1.02 million sale after the Glass Fire swept over the Mayacamas Mountains in 2020.

"We're pleased to support projects with tangible health and safety benefits, such as improving watershed health, biological diversity, and climate resiliency," said Chair of the Board of Supervisors James Gore. "Strategically placed and managed parks and open spaces have become critical to our communitys resiliency as we adapt to a changing climate.”

At 1,883 feet, the property’s summit provides unobstructed views of the Santa Rosa Plain, Sonoma Valley and beyond, and is highly visible from the Highway 12 corridor through Sonoma Valley. boundaries encompass pristine swaths of Douglas fir, California bay, mixed oak forest, native grasslands, and the upper reaches of the Santa Rosa Creek watershed.

“The scenic value of this acquisition preserves the spectacular views of the Sonoma Valley corridor – from both the valley floor and from inside the park – and fulfills the county’s goal of protecting ecologically important forest, rangeland and wilderness on one of the last undeveloped parcels on this iconic mountain,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin, whose 1st District encompasses the park.

The acreage adds to a regional wildlife corridor that stretches across the mountains of Lake and Napa counties to the Marin coast. The corridor is vital to providing shelter, food, and migration routes for large mammals such as bears, mountain lions, and bobcats, and nesting habitat for special-status bird species such as the northern spotted owl. It also possesses rare plant communities and significant water resources.

“This investment protects the wilderness feel of Hood Mountain and broadens our vision for the park,” said Regional Parks Director Bert Whitaker. “It provides exciting possibilities for new trail connections and allows us to rethink the recreation and education opportunities as we restore the park after the fire.”

Funding for the acquisition was made possible by the Parks for All Measure M sales tax and County Park Mitigation Fees. The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation awarded a grant covering nearly half the purchase through the nonprofit Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation, which also facilitated completion of the purchase with a grant from the Parks Foundation’s Bill & Dave Legacy Fund.

“We are deeply grateful to the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the many park lovers who contributed to the Bill & Dave Legacy Fund for making the purchase of Cougar Landing possible,” said Melissa Kelley, executive director of the Parks Foundation. “Their generosity highlights the significance of this park for recreation and fire resilience, as well as critical wildlife habitat.”

Much of Hood Mountain Park and Preserve burned in the 2020 Glass Fire, and a large section of the park adjacent to the Los Alamos entrance remains temporarily closed for hazard tree removal and damage restoration. Public access to Cougar Landing could start as early as summer 2022, and construction of new trails or features are anticipated to roll out over the next three to five years.

Additionally, Regional Parks is working with Sonoma County Department of Emergency Services to install a fire camera on the site by fall of 2022. The camera will be part of the North Bay regional network of 90 ALERTWildfire cameras designed to spot wildfires, and expand surveillance for the Santa Rosa, Kenwood, Glen Ellen areas. Both Cougar Landing and Hood Mountain Regional Park were critical staging and defensive areas in the fights against the Glass Fire and the 2017 Nuns Fire.

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