Glen Ellen property saved for fish restoration, park

Posted on July 28, 2011 by Sonoma Valley Sun

The Sonoma Land Trust has big plans for a small property it just acquired near the intersection of Highway 12 and Arnold Drive in Glen Ellen.

Thanks to a generous supporter who was willing to lend the Land Trust the purchase amount, the Land Trust was able to move quickly to acquire the 3.53-acre property called “Stuart Creek Run.”

Stuart Creek Run includes a one-third mile stretch of Stuart Creek, which supports a stable run of federally threatened steelhead trout. Most of the fisheries habitat in the Stuart Creek watershed, however, has been largely inaccessible to steelhead for decades because a small bridge on the property has eroded so deeply that steelhead cannot jump over it. The eroding bridge also threatens to fall into the creek, generating tons of polluting sediment.

Removal of this barrier has been identified as one of the highest priorities for recovering steelhead in the Bay Area by the Center for Ecosystem Management and Restoration.

Along with its value as a steelhead run, the property is situated within an identified wildlife corridor in close proximity to other protected lands, including Sonoma Land Trust’s Glen Oaks Ranch and Secret Pasture Preserve, Sonoma Valley Regional Park, Bouverie Preserve, Quarryhill Botanical Garden and Jack London State Historic Park.

The property was first brought to the attention of the Land Trust by the Sonoma Ecology Center and Sonoma County Supervisor Valerie Brown — they requested the Land Trust’s assistance in acquiring it from landowners Toni and Jeff Piccinini who favored a conservation outcome.

“With the Sonoma Land Trust taking ownership, we can now restore this special part of Sonoma Valley to once again provide safe passage for native fish and wildlife,” said Richard Dale, executive director of the Sonoma Ecology Center. “After years of planning and negotiation, the Ecology Center is thrilled with this acquisition and excited about our partnership with the Land Trust on this highly significant project.”

Along with reestablishing the creek’s historic channel pattern to give steelhead access to 14 miles of high-quality spawning habitat, Stuart Creek Run offers an ideal spot for a charming roadside park where residents and visitors to the valley could enjoy a tranquil picnic, take a leisurely stroll, and learn about fish and creek restoration.

“The size of this lovely little property belies its huge promise for becoming a community treasure,” said Supervisor Brown. “I am grateful the Sonoma Land Trust found a way to buy it so it can meet its potential and enrich the lives of residents in our beautiful Sonoma Valley.”

The Land Trust will partner with Sonoma Ecology Center to restore Stuart Creek’s riparian and fish habitat and create a park on the property. The team will first plan, permit and implement restoration of the property, including removing the steelhead migration barrier, stabilizing the stream channel and rejuvenating the riparian habitat. Private and public funding will be sought for this phase of the project.

Construction of the roadside park will be the final phase of the project and will require private funding to build and provide for its ongoing maintenance. Individuals interested in contributing to this extraordinary project may contact Beverly Scottland at (707) 526-6930, ext. 108, or go to Naming opportunities are also available.

“Even in an era of threatened park closures, we could not pass up this opportunity,” said Ralph Benson, Sonoma Land Trust executive director. “With the help of the community, Stuart Creek Run will open up Stuart Creek for the steelhead, and will also eventually make a splendid addition to the public amenities of the Sonoma Valley.”

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