I was touched by the column about the sad beauty and inevitable decline of the Sonoma Developmental Center by Josette Brose-Eichar. But I wonder if the “progress and reality” as described must happen, knowing what we’ve lost in the past to “put up a parking lot,” as Joni Mitchell famously sang.
The lands at Eldridge are owned by the people of California, so we all have a say in what happens. This property is really the heart of Sonoma Valley. It provides clean water and clean air. The open space acts as a greenbelt buffer to reduce wildfire risk to nearby communities. It is a well-documented wildlife corridor for bears, mountain lions, and other far-ranging animals. It is a critical ecosystem link that connects the mountain ranges as far east as Snow Mountain to the coast and Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Such precious natural resources are essential to responding to climate change challenges.
While open space protections are promised, the state wants to sell the lands including the main campus to the highest bidder. It refuses to clean up the site so it can easily be repurposed. The latest report from county planners suggest it is a good spot for a new community with ample housing, a hotel, grocery stores and shops, and a giant parking garage since everyone will be driving. Sounds like old fashioned urbanization to me.
What happened to a visionary new climate-resilient transformation for a precious landscape? What about trails and campgrounds? The solar panels? The organic farm? Where are the bear crossings? These ideas have been suggested over the past five years in various community meetings, but seemingly overlooked in the planning process to date.
The Governor recently set a goal of conserving 30 percent of that state’s lands by 2030 to protect biodiversity and boost climate resilience. Why not add the total 945 acres of SDC lands to forward that goal and preserve these natural resources forever? We have a state budget surplus right now. Maybe we should even consider returning the land to the people who were here in the first place.
— Teri Shore, Sonoma