County breaks new trail at Taylor Mountain
By ANN HUTCHINSON / Santa Rosa Correspondent
People, dogs and horses already enjoy the fresh air, scenic vista and rolling terrain of Taylor Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve in southeast Santa Rosa. But as early as this week, work will begin on the first piece of a multi-phase master plan that will open the 1,100-acre property to a much broader audience.
On Tuesday, July 29, supervisors are expected to approve the first piece of a new 17-mile trail system, permitting the Sonoma County Trails Council to start building a 1.5-mile segment between Petaluma Hill Road and the park’s existing ranch roads that should be finished this fall.
And if all goes as planned, in September, supervisors will approve a contract for the staging area at the Petaluma Hill Road trailhead, just south of Yolanda Avenue, which will include parking, restrooms, picnic area, equestrian amenities and eventually a playground and campground. The staging area should be finished before the end of the year, said Meda Freeman, regional parks spokesperson.
Cost of both projects is about $1 million, Freeman said, $750,000 from a state grant and the rest from other grants and donations. Trail labor will be done by volunteers with the Sonoma County Trails Council, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Current visitors like Julie Hanover of Santa Rosa now entertain themselves with just four miles of trails, primarily old ranch roads with steep climbs and descents on a hot, open hillside. Hanover and her girlfriends come every Saturday and Sunday with their dogs to “take the hard, vertical climb first, then meander down. It is an amazing vertical workout,” she said. “We see all kinds of nice people and dogs along the way.”
Earlier this month, Jan Thomas of Windsor and Lenona Winter of Sebastopol made their second visit to do plein air painting. Sheryl Chapman of Santa Rosa brought her dog, as she has every day since the park opened in 2013, and Thomas McNamara of Santa Rosa came to walk his dog and do stretches on the little bridge over a creek, as he does every morning.
Early fans comment on the spectacular views from atop the mountain, the park’s location just minutes from downtown Santa Rosa and the lack of shade.
The recently completed master plan calls for 17 miles of zig-zagging trails that will wander through the park’s shady forests and oak woodlands, some of them providing shade and an easier climb for those who need it. Other future developments around the urban boundaries include five “gateways” into the park, two campgrounds and a visitor center.
Melissa Kelley, executive director of the Sonoma County Regional Park Foundation, has mounted a $30,000 fundraising campaign for a play area near the Petaluma Hill Road staging area that will have natural structures that may include logs, plants, water, sand, boulders, hills and trees.
REI has already donated $11,000 toward that goal, and in 2015, a contractor will be selected for that project, Kelley said.
The Foundation also is launching its Trails for Taylor Campaign, providing park lovers a chance to sponsor two feet of trail for $10. Details are available at sonomacountyparksfoundation.org, 565-2041.
Other opportunities to contribute include upcoming running events at Spring Lake Park, Riverfront Regional Park, Ragle Ranch Regional Park, the Joe Rodota Trail and perhaps Taylor Mountain as well. The Foundation also is looking for volunteers to help the Sonoma County Trails Council build the trail. No experience is necessary.
For hikers who haven’t experienced Taylor Mountain, getting there is a little tricky. Access is at 2080 Kawana Terrace, east of the Kiwanis Springs subdivision.
For more information, visit parks.sonomacounty.ca.gov, or call 539-8092.
About Taylor Mountain
Taylor Mountain is adjacent to a prehistoric Indian community and since the 1800s has been used for cattle grazing.
Five parcels were combined to form the 1,100-Taylor Mountain Park and Preserve, the newest property managed by Sonoma County Regional Parks. Over the next decade, its urban boundaries will be developed for camping and nature studies, with hiking, biking and equestrian trails, and critical natural areas will be preserved.
Southern Pomo Indians inhabited the site until the 19th century, leaving obsidian flakes and petroglyphs at five sites.
John Shackelford Taylor bought a portion of the property in 1853 and founded White Sulfur Springs resort there, taking advantage of natural hot springs formed by the Rodgers Creek Fault.
The resort bathhouse, gazebo and garage still exist, although the hot springs stopped flowing after the 1906 earthquake. Renamed Kawana Springs, the resort was maintained until the 1980s.
Taylor Mountain, elevation 1,400 feet, headwaters for Colgan Creek, Todd Creek and Cooper Creek
Grasslands, wetlands, oak woodlands, forests
Wildlife — 5 reptile, 4 amphibian, 50 bird and 12 mammal species, including deer, fox and bobcats
Rare or endangered species — California red-legged frogs, golden eagles, grasshopper sparrows and two plants, big-scale balsamroot and fragrant fritillary
Entrances at Petaluma Hill Road and Kawana Springs Resort area (with campgrounds), Kawana Terrace, Linwood Avenue and Panorama Drive (pedestrians and bicyclists only).
Natural playground at Petaluma Hill Road
17 miles of trails on six loops
Visitor Center in renovated bathhouse at Kawana Springs Resort site
Source: Master Plan, Press Democrat archives