The Western Sonoma County
Rural Alliance

Quail Hill, Freestone (from left to right)

Dear Member & Friend of The Rural Alliance...
On May 9th friends and family will gather at Negri's restaurant to honor Bob Sharp upon his retirement as Chairman of The Board of Directors of The Rural Alliance. It will be a specially catered gourmet dinner prepared with gusto by Mama Evelyn Negri herself, guaranteed yummy, and for a good cause... The Bob Sharp Environmental Scholarship Fund.
The first grants, through Sonoma State and Santa Rosa Jr. College will be awarded this year!!! There will also be the usual rollicking Auction! This year pushed and cajoled by auctioneer David "Einstein" Katz, all the way from Davis!!!
It happened already...( here's a report!) It was a HOOT! Thanks to all those who donated and bid for The great Auction items! The Bucket of Worms and The Occidental Hardware's Hose were real action items! Mike Reilly bought Bill's hat in The Auction, then presented it to Heather Rauson,The Bob Sharp Environmental Studies Scholarship student from Santa Rosa Jr. College! What a time... Thanks to everyone! Here's some more about the evening...

Take us to Our Leader ...

The Rural Alliance wishes to extend it's heartfelt congratulations to Mike Reilly on his election as the 5th District's representative to the Board of Supervisors. We have every confidence that Mike will be a great supervisor and will be advocating the same missions and goals which The Rural Alliance stands for... Good Luck Mike - The Rural Alliance is here to help you in any way we can...

How Safe is Safe...?

We read w/interest and some dismay the excellent Gaye LeBaron column, The Selling of a Nature Preserve , March 19th - The Press-Democrat. The Nature Preserve is the 3,100 acre Pepperwood Ranch, given to the California Academy of Sciences some 20 years ago, with the idea that the Academy would maintain the land for "research, education, and preservation", according to the LeBaron Column. Well, now the Academy wants to cash in, listing the ranch for sale at 6.5 million., clearly NOT the fate which Kenneth Bechtel had in mind when he gave the ranch to The Academy a generation ago.

This is not an unusual scenario. Ocean Song Ranch, dedicated to public use and environmental education is similarly endangered, despite the best intentions of Pieter Myers, who sold the land a scant two years back at a very substantial discount, with the idea it be preserved in perpetuity. Now, it is burdened with a huge debt load and could conceivably fall to developers.

Stewardship of the land is like birth control... You can't be too careful!!!

A Fresh Tune... avoid such disaster , The Community Coalition, neighbors and friends of Ocean Song have organized and come up with the following idea... They will gather 2,001 people to contribute $100 a year for five years to raise 1 million dollars to purchase and re-new Ocean Song.
Currently The Coalition is incorporating as a non-profit membership organization. They are proud of the strong Board they have nominated. The by-laws insure the Board is involved with, and responsible to the membership. They have made a proposal to The Heirloom Trust (owners of The Land) for a Lease/Option agreement which would satisfy County Code requirements, start the environmental education programs and care for the gardens.

We believe that this proposal, coupled with the 2001 fundraising, major benefactors and foundations, will purchase the land and bring back local control.

A Home for The Arts in Occidental...

The RA salutes Doris Murphy for her indefatigable efforts for a sorely needed Visual & Performing Arts Center in Occidental! It's central to the goals of so many deserving efforts. And... Thanks to John Stillion for hosting a gathering at his home, bringing together the many diverse community, environmental & arts groups of The West County.

David & Goliath...

NEWS!!! Read ALl About It!
Friday, May 23rd! The Supreme Court refused to hear the Van Alstyne's appeal! The Friends WIN!!!

When three years ago a small group of neighbors gathered around a kitchen table to figure out a way to stop the logging the last of old growth redwood grove in the Occidental area, little did they know that meeting was the beginning of a legal proceeding now going to the Supreme Court!!! It's our very own Headwaters!!! Briefly, these are the facts of the case...

The neighbors founded a group, Friends of The Old trees, which brought suit against the California Division of Forestry, for approving a seriously flawed "modified" timber harvest plan for The Van Alstyne Grove. "Friends", through attorney Paul Carroll,
argued that the public was not given appropriate opportunity to comment on the plan, "fog drip" from the redwoods and it's effects on the neighbor's water supplies... also that The CDF did not consider alternatives to logging.

Thus far "Friends" have prevailed in local and State courts. The CDF is pursuing an appeal vigorously because of the cases precedent setting implications in regards to the alternatives issue and also the "modified" Timber Harvest Plans which allow small timber landowners (under 40 acres) to push through THP's quickly (which is good), but which also allows aberrations such as the Van Alstyne plan to slip through. The cutting of 1,000 year old trees deserves more than just a cursory review, in our opinion...

The Rural Alliance is proud to have financially joined many others in assisting the "Friends" with their legal fees. We will continue to do so until the issue is resolved in the courts, and the grove is saved.

The Open Space District has made an offer to buy The Ancient Trees property, based on an independent appraisal... unfortunately the Van Alstyne Family has rejected that offer. We sincerely hope they change their minds.
The Van Alstynes lost in Court... BUT, they re-wrote the THP and have submitted it again... Another offer has been made by The Friends, so far with no response. There is movement however and as of 8/18, there are encouraging signs...
Stay tuned!

Sebastopol's Life of O'Reilly... June 5th... LAFCO approved O'Reilly while ripping The City of Sebastopol. The Courts are the last resort.

Hwy 116 through Sebastopol approaches gridlock certain times of the day. A child was recently run over by a truck near downtown and next to the mobile speed control/radar sign. Drivers getting on to 116 must show infinite patience and New York City verve. Every effort should be made by local government to mitigate this congestion, instead of approving projects which exacerbate the situation. Recently Cal-Trans, LAFC, and Supervisor Mike Cale were highly critical of The Sebastopol City Council in regards to O'Reilly. There will be another hearing in June... Stayed tuned on this one! The Rural Alliance joins Friends of The West County in opposing The O'Reilly project because of its most inappropriate siting. The sprawling development in an apple orchard north of town is outside the city limits. It busts the general plan, violates the Urban Growth Boundaries passed by the voters, and substantially ADDS to the traffic terror of Hwy 116.

Winds of Change For Freestone Valley...

Rancho Americano (previously known as Quail Hill... photos, here and there...) has been sub-divided into nine parcels that will be on the market as soon as the Herrington's comply with Sonoma County's conditions for approval for development.

The Crenna Ranch, 222 acres stretching from Bohemian Hwy. to Jonive Rd. and across the valley floor to Freestone Flat Road. was sold at a Probate Auction for $1,450,000. General Plan and zoning restricts this property to 40 acre density. The developer's plans have not been publicly announced.

A 70 acre parcel behind the Wishing Well Nursery is in escrow contingent upon approval of a use permit to develop green houses for grape vine starts. { More information -130,00 sq. ft.!- here soon...} The property stretches from Bodega Hwy. across Salmon Creek and up the face of the east-facing hillside. The prospective purchaser is Mr. Heath, who some may recall as a previous owner of Superior Propane Company.

Together, these properties encompass the beautiful Freestone Valley, most of the hillsides and ephemeral tributaries of Salmon Creek.
As rumors of vineyards, golf courses, new roads and huge houses circulate among us, we realize once again how important it is to protect the natural vegetation and water supplies that support this coastal ecosystem. While we appreciate the goals of the General Plan to encourage agriculture and low density development in The West County, it does not protect the land from inappropriate timber harvests, vineyards, golf courses etc. that diminish our tenuous water supplies and scare away wildlife. Just last year kids at Middle School in Freestone saw Salmon going up the creek to spawn. Keep the Salmon in Salmon Creek!!!

Let's hope the new owners share our appreciation of this unique valley and will consider selling some or all of their development rights to the people of Sonoma County to be administered by the Sonoma County Agricultural Preserve and Open Space District.

The RA will be very carefully monitoring whatever happens here and invites your participation to help preserve the biological integrity of Western Sonoma County and the rural lifestyle of The Freestone historic District.

Would You Like to Attend Salmon Creek Watershed Day...?

A watershed Celebration of nature, Art and Community Resources is being planned for mid-summer or Early Fall.

Tentative plans include; a picnic, public forum-to discuss the future of The salmon Creek Watershed, music, dance, nature walks, creation of a Watershed Poster by The Community and a "Promenade" of Booths- where you can learn about the cultural & environmental resources of Western Sonoma County.
If you're interested in sharing ideas & energy, please call: Allistair Bleiffus...... 876-1806, Katie Etienne............ 874-3353, Kathleen Kraft......... 874-2014

"Red , Red Wine... Oh so fine..."

The RA looks with concern the proposal of The Associated Vintage Group's plans to escalate production of wine from an old apple processing plant in Graton.
It would increase volume from 65,000 cases to 2 million cases a year. This would severely impact the quality of life for the residents of Graton. The processing plant would operate long hours, 6 days a week bringing heavy truck traffic, bright lights and noise. The State Dept. of Fish and Game said, "the water quality issues surrounding the project are significant, and that the neighbors have a very real concern." They also recommended, "...more stringent Water Quality Control Board review and requirement."

We join the Fish and Game, GASP (the local neighborhood group) and their attorney, Susan Brandt-Hawley in calling for a thorough environmental review to insure the very real concerns are addressed.

Lanes vs. Trains...

We agree with Marc Green of Sonoma County Conservation Action that how we solve the Hwy. 101 transit dilemma is crucial to the future of Sonoma County, i.e. open space, community centered growth, public transit and community separators... Politicians! When are the trains coming???

Founders Dinner...

What excites us about the May 9th dinner is that it not only honors Bob Sharp, who has been a major force in The Rural Alliance since our beginnings fifteen years ago, but that it also acknowledges the next generation through The Bob Sharp Scholarship Fund.

It will be a great evening, with fresh pasta, three different kinds of sauces, organic greens from local gardens, plenty of wine and other beverages. We promise you a four star dinner and a knockout Auction!
Call 823-1839 for reservations!

Drop a note to
The Rural Alliance!