Ag + Open Space awards $5.8 million for community open space projects

By Heather Bailey, Staff Writer, Sonoma West Times & News, March 24, 2021

parks

On March 23, the board of directors of the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District (Ag + Open Space) recommended funding of over $5.8 million for new recreational projects within or near urban areas throughout Sonoma County.

Through its Matching Grant Program, which solicits applications every two years, Ag + Open Space provides funding for acquisition, restoration and recreational development projects that offer benefits to our urban communities. This cycle, the board recommended $5,805,600 in funding for six projects throughout the county that will add 145 acres of new and enhanced parks, trail additions, and several new access points to existing local parks.

“Across the county, our communities are healthier and happier when they have access to nature,” said Lynda Hopkins, Ag + Open Space Board Chair, 5th District Supervisor and chair of the county board of supervisors in a statement. “Through this enhanced cycle of Matching Grant program funding, residents will gain a connection to the Bodega Bay Trail, a larger and more accessible Crane Creek Regional Park and a ‘Central Park’ for Petaluma. 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.”

Going into the 2020 funding cycle, Ag + Open Space set the budget at $4 million. However, this program is a key tool for Ag + Open Space to ensure all local communities have equitable access to parks and open space, so staff were able to find savings in previously approved projects that then enabled a recommended increase to over $5 million.

“We were very impressed with all of the applications we received this cycle, but six really rose to the top in terms of providing a major increase in urban open space,” said Caryl Hart, Ag + Open Space interim general manager in a statement. “The COVID-19 pandemic further reinforced how vital it is for our communities to have equitable access to parks and open spaces, and funding a larger portfolio of projects than in years past will help to ensure all county residents feel connected to and supported by nature.”

This cycle’s projects include the creation, expansion and enhancement of new and existing parks and a new trail connection.

In north county, a new 36-acre park will be coming to Healdsburg to provide open space and recreation for future residents of adjacent housing developments, including some affordable housing units, to exercise, play and relax. This project will also include a connection to the 153-acre Healdsburg Ridge Open Space Preserve, protected by Ag + Open Space in 2003. The grant for this project was $1 million.

Windsor will be getting both acquisition and improvement dollars in the amount of $650,000, for the much-loved Keiser Park. Keiser will gain 2.3 additional acres for recreation through their project, and create new entrances to this flagship park from nearby neighborhoods.

In a part of the county that is new to the Matching Grant Program, the Bodega Bay Trail will add nearly two-thirds of a mile to the California Coastal Trail, and create a multi-use path that will become a critical connection to the town of Bodega Bay. The grant for this project is $795,000.

Other projects include A Place to Play in Santa Rosa, Crane Creek and Copeland Creek parks in Rohnert Park and Petaluma River Park. The total grant for all projects is $5,805,600.

This article was produced by Sonoma West Times & News, the hometown newspaper of Sebastopol and west county since 1889. See more news at sonomawest.com