New regional park and open space preserve coming to Sonoma Coast

Press Release, Sonoma County Regional Parks, January 4, 2021

sonoma coast

The 335-acre property showcases the southern Sonoma Coast. (Photo courtesy Sonoma County Regional Parks)

Ag + Open Space transfers 335 acres of protected land to Regional Parks

The Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District (Ag + Open Space), a special district dedicated to protecting our working and natural lands forever, transferred ownership of a 335-acre coastal property to Sonoma County Regional Parks. This land, known as Carrington Coast Ranch, will eventually open to the public as a regional park and open space preserve just north of Salmon Creek.

“This project has been a long time in the making, so it is extraordinary to see the vision become reality and soon our community will be able to enjoy the rolling grasslands and beautiful vistas that make this property such a gem,” said Sonoma County 5th District Supervisor and Ag + Open Space Director Lynda Hopkins. “The conservation of our working and natural lands, including this new park and preserve, provides so many benefits to Sonoma County’s diverse communities. These include addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation, offering a place for all people to enjoy nature, and showcasing stunning scenic landscapes that define our region.”

Ag + Open Space purchased Carrington Coast Ranch in 2003 for $4.8 million. At the time, it was anticipated that the property would be transferred to and operated by California State Parks. However, due to budgetary constraints, State Parks was unable to accept title to the property. Ag + Open Space then began to work with Regional Parks on a potential park and open space preserve that would protect the ranch’s scenic and natural resources, while also providing for public recreation.

Carrington Coast Ranch hosts a diversity of natural habitats, including coastal prairie, coastal scrub, freshwater and saltwater wetlands, and tidal marsh. Several special-status species, such as the Townsend big-eared bat, California red-legged frog, and American badger have been identified on the property. The ranch is primarily open grassland, which affords spectacular views of the ocean, and sequesters carbon to help mitigate the effects of climate change, ensuring this area will adapt to sea level rise. The future park and open space preserve will provide a critical segment of the 1,200-mile California Coastal Trail and link to public lands to the north and south. The development of public trails on the Carrington property will provide a safe route for hikers, cyclists and equestrians between Marshall Gulch and Salmon Creek.

“Ag + Open Space sought to conserve this magnificent property because of its amazing natural resources, significant wildlife habitat, beautiful scenic vistas, and the potential for it to become a place for the public to explore,” said Caryl Hart, interim General Manager for Ag + Open Space. “As we know, the physical and mental health benefits of nature and the outdoors are needed now more than ever, and with sea levels expected to rise as a result of climate change, it is important that this land remains as open space.”

Just north of Bodega Bay, the ranch is bordered by Sonoma Coast State Park to the west, a private ranch to the north, Salmon Creek to the south and a private property, also protected by an Ag + Open Space conservation easement, to the east. The Carrington property contains a homestead dating from before 1860, which consists of a residence, shed, sheep barn, and Monterey cypress trees.

“Full of local history and ecological significance, this striking property, with its sweeping views from Jenner to Salmon Creek, Bodega Dunes, and Bodega Head showcases the southern Sonoma Coast. The gentle coastal terrace will offer accessible trails and diverse nature experiences for residents and visitors,” said Sonoma County Regional Parks Director Bert Whitaker. “We look forward to working with the community and our partners to steward the land and provide new opportunities for people to discover the magic of our coast.”

Before the park can open for regular public access, Regional Parks will complete a master plan to guide the development of trails, recreational and educational uses, and stewardship of the natural resources. Public outreach for the planning process is set to begin in the summer of 2021. In the interim, Regional Parks will develop opportunities for the public to periodically access the park and preserve.