Blues bring in Benjamins for local park projects
The Funky Fridays summer concert series, held last year at historic Hood Mansion near Pythian Road, raised an impressive $50,000 for the Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation. After reviewing funding requests, the Parks Foundation staff and board members have dedicated that money to providing support to a variety of local projects.
“These Funky Fridays events encapsulate one of the things we love about public parks,” said Richard Dale, executive director of Sonoma Ecology Center, which helps manage Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. “It brings people outside together and lets them relax in nature.”
With the rise in frequency of black bear images captured on wildlife cameras near Hood Mountain and Sugarloaf Ridge State parks, staff are rolling out a Bear Aware Program at both parks, which will include bear-proof garbage containers at campsites, bear aware signage, and interpretive programs to educate the public about black bears.
In Sugarloaf State Park, plans for the construction of three new backcountry campsites at the historic red barn near Bald Mountain are in the works. The park’s “Sugarhood” Shuttle Service, which was started last summer, will be expanded to include a shuttle between Jack London and North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park. The Sugarhood Shuttle lets thru-hikers leave their cars at one trailhead, do a one-way hike through the park, and then catch the shuttle back to their cars. This year, the shuttle will run at least once a month, starting on March 11 and running through November. Dates will be posted at www.sugarloafpark.org.
At Hood Mountain Regional Park, there are plans in the works to provide permanent interpretive panels with information related to the history of Hood Mansion and surrounding properties. The historic Hood House and park property used to be part of the vast Los Guilicos Rancho owned by Mariano Vallejo, covering most of the north Sonoma Valley, from Adobe Canyon to Los Alamos Road. The property was first given to Vallejo’s brother-in-law, Captain John Wilson, who later sold it to a wealthy Scottish carpenter/lumberman and adventurer William Hood. Hood built the mansion in 1858 with his Gold Rush fortune (one of several won and lost in his lifetime), planted grapes and ran a full-featured ranch estate. Over time the property shrank to 2,000 acres and Hood’s young wife, Eliza, eventually took over the farm and became a major force in California’s burgeoning wine business until phylloxera wiped it out before the turn of the century. Following that, the property was owned by U.S. Senator Thomas Kearns, then by the Knights of Pythias, and later became a girls home after WWII. Hood House got a million dollar seismic upgrade in 2008, but the house and grounds require upkeep, maintenance and some further restoration.
The Parks Foundation will pay for significant upgrades at the Hood Mansion property to improve the Funky Fridays experience for the summer of 2017. The stage, formerly set next to the mansion, will be moved to the south end of the lawn. The audience will now face away from the mansion, but will enjoy a more amphitheater-like experience on the grass. Responding to requests from many of last year’s attendees, Funky Fridays also will install a new dance floor in front of the stage.
In addition, the Parks Foundation has begun to save a portion of the Funky Fridays funds for future maintenance projects at Hood Mansion.
The money raised by Funky Fridays will also go towards creating a Sonoma Valley Hike-Ride-Trek Brochure to highlight outdoor recreation opportunities in the Sonoma Valley and support outdoor programs for families from the Springs area.
“We are grateful for the tremendous support of all the attendees and volunteers,” said Bill Myers and Linda Pavlak of Kenwood, the event organizers. “We look forward to continued growth and success in 2017 for this fifth annual parks fundraiser.”
“We’re thankful to Bill and Linda for their hard work in creating this highly successful concert series, and for giving back to Sonoma Valley’s open spaces,” said Sonoma Ecology Center’s Dale.
As it did last year, the Rotary Club of Glen Ellen-Kenwood is planning to serve wine and beer at the Funky Fridays concerts. Money raised by the Rotary Club will go to help maintain and improve Kenwood’s Shaw Park. As a result of this support, future improvements at Shaw Park will include oak restoration, an upgraded pathway, new signage, additional trees and fencing improvements.
Funky Fridays will continue to raise money for Sonoma Valley parks in the summer of 2017. Its first two series sponsors are Terra Firma Global Partners and SolarCity. The concert is currently accepting new series sponsors and individual concert sponsors. Contact Susan Bryer-Shelton at 565-3190 for details or visit sonomacountyparksfoundation.org/sponsoropportunities/.
The concert series will start on May 26 with funky soul and R&B from the Bay Area-based The Bruthas. A complete lineup is posted at www.funkyfridays.info. Tickets are $10 for adults; free for children 18 and under. Parking is $10 per vehicle or free for Regional Parks members.