Taylor Mountain breaking new trails
The newest park in the Sonoma County Regional Parks system, Taylor Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve, is drawing people, dogs and horses to its trails, where they enjoy exercise, fresh air and scenic vistas dotted with cattle. Some visitors come for the hiking or dog walking, while others come to paint, stretch or ride their horses.
Julie Hanover, of Santa Rosa, comes to the park early every Saturday and Sunday with her girlfriends. They bring the dogs and, “take the hard, vertical climb first, then meander down. It is an amazing vertical workout. You feel the burn. It’s awesome.” Hanover added, “It’s never good to hike alone. And way more fun with friends. We see all kinds of nice people and dogs along the way.”
Sheryl Chapman, of Santa Rosa, has been enjoying Taylor Mountain every day since it opened. “It’s a great place to take my dog,” she said. “So many of the parks, like Annadel, don’t allow dogs.”
Jan Thomas of Windsor and Lenona Winter of Sebastopol made their second visit to the park for plein air painting on Wednesday, July 9. Thomas McNamara, of Santa Rosa, who was walking his dog the same day, said he comes to the park every morning, early, to walk his dog and do his stretches on the little bridge over the creek.
Many people comment on the spectacular views from the mountain, which is just minutes from downtown Santa Rosa. Another feature often remarked upon, the lack of shade, is in the process of being addressed – not by adding trees, but by adding more than 15 miles of zig-zagging trails through the mountain’s mature oaks and bays. In addition to the new trails, a recently completed master plan (view pdf here) for the site includes a natural play area, picnic areas, restrooms, trailhead parking and equestrian services at a new Petaluma Hill Road entrance, just south of Yolanda Avenue.
Currently, the four miles of Taylor Mountain trails are dirt trails and old ranch roads, which take hikers on two routes, one of which leads to the top of the mountain. The new trails, in addition to adding much-needed shade, will provide an easier climb for those who need it. Construction of the new trails is expected to begin as soon as August, said Melissa Kelley, Executive Director, Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation.
The new play area will feature natural structures, which may include logs, plants, water, sand, boulders, hills and trees, with man-made features interwoven to support the natural landscape and creative play. A contractor will be selected in 2015 for that project, said Kelley. She said it will be located near the future parking lot at the Petaluma Hill Road entrance. Two more proposed future improvements to the park are low-impact campsites and a visitor center.
The work is funded by a state grant of $750,000. In addition, the Foundation is raising $30,000 to cover associated expenses for the new trails. REI of Santa Rosa has already contributed $11,000 toward the goal. The Foundation is launching its Trails for Taylor Campaign, she said, to provide an opportunity for park lovers to sponsor two feet of trail for a $10 donation. Each $10 donation (there’s no limit to how many times you donate) earns the donor a chance to win a Trek Fuel mountain bike from Trek Store of Santa Rosa. (Details available at sonomacountyparksfoundation.org and by calling 565-2041.)
In addition, Fleet Feet of Santa Rosa is sponsoring a series of fund-raising running events, the first of which will be at Spring Lake Park on Sunday, Oct. 19. Others are planned for Riverfront Regional Park, Ragle Ranch Regional Park and the Joe Rodota Trail. Kelley said the Foundation hopes that runs will be scheduled for the new trails at Taylor Mountain as well, in 2015.
The Foundation is also looking for individuals and groups of volunteers to help the Sonoma County Trails Council with the trail building. No experience is necessary. Another way park lovers may contribute is by participating in a town hall meeting to discuss the particulars of the play area plan sometime after the new staging area at Petaluma Hill Road is complete.
For hikers who haven’t experienced Taylor Mountain yet, getting there is a little tricky. Access is at 2080 Kawana Terrace, east of the Kiwanis Springs subdivision, off of Petaluma Hill Road in Santa Rosa. For more information, visit parks.sonomacounty.ca.gov, or call 539-8092.