Open space adds hundreds of acres behind Hood Mountain
New acquisitions may extend park trails in the future
Two hefty parcels of land straddling Los Alamos Road will become the newest additions to Sonoma County’s Open Space District. County supervisors approved spending $4.2 million to buy conservation easements over 1,200-plus acres of property belonging to a number of trust funds.
A conservation easement extinguishes future development rights over a property while keeping it in private ownership, still paying property taxes based on the land’s value – reduced by the value of the conservation easement – and being used for appropriate agricultural or enterprise uses. It’s seen as a benefit to all parties.
The property, known as the Weeks Ranch North and South abuts the entrance to Hood Mountain Regional Park on Los Alamos Road. While there are no plans for any recreational uses in the near future, according to a spokesperson for the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, trails may be extended into the area if future opportunities arise.
The North Weeks Ranch is 888 acres and rises a thousand feet from its 1,200-foot lowest level up the mountain. It’s currently used to graze cattle and is under a Williamson Act contract.
The property includes 335 acres rich with a variety of species, 411 acres of core oak woodland, and 168 acres of conifer forest.
Streams flowing through the North Ranch contribute to the headwaters of both Mark West and Santa Rosa creeks, with some steelhead in the Santa Rosa Creek portion.
There are two homes on the North Ranch and the possibility of one more farm-related home. There are a number of sheds, corrals and other buildings attendant to the agricultural nature of the property.
South Weeks Ranch rises from 900 to 1,500 feet. A Santa Rosa Creek tributary, Satchett Creek, originates on this lower property. There are no houses on this land, and a few improvements “for the cattle operation and for recreational use by the family,” according to a staff report on the acquisition.
The county is contributing $3.48 million toward the acquisition, with the remainder being donated by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation through the offices of the Sonoma Land Trust.