Land Protection | Sonoma Ecology Center

Land Protection & Preservation

Sonoma Ecology Center has a long track record of successfully protecting Sonoma Valley’s open spaces. We do this by identifying opportunities for preservation, then working with partners to find common ground, both figuratively and literally. To date we have helped protect more than 5,000 acres of Sonoma Valley land by forming new preserves, adding land to existing state or regional parks, and guaranteeing the ongoing protection of key pieces of land.

Sugarloaf Ridge State Park

When the state threatened to close Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, a 4,000-acre state park and local treasure, Sonoma Ecology Center pulled together a team of skilled nonprofits to create Team Sugarloaf, which reopened the park in 2012 and assumed responsibility for this local landmark.

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Sonoma Overlook Trail

Sonoma Overlook Trail is a nearly 3 mile walking path set onto the hillside backdrop for the the City of Sonoma. A diverse array of native plants and animals grace the gentle grade trail, and spectacular views of the town of Sonoma, the Sonoma Valley and the Bay Area can be found in the meadow at its top. Docent-led hikes are available for students and adults many weekends. The trail is open to the public for walking during daylight hours.

In partnership with the City of Sonoma and the Sonoma Ecology Center, Sonoma Overlook Trail Stewards have the lead responsibility for the stewardship of the trail. Trained docents knowledgeable about the trail’s flora, fauna, and history are available to guide private groups.

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Nathanson Creek Preserve

Formerly a neglected ditch, Nathanson Creek Preserve is now a three-quarter-mile-long greenway with trails and a native-plant demonstration garden. This city jewel runs through downtown Sonoma and alongside two schools, both of which use it as a living outdoor classroom.

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Sonoma Garden Park

Sonoma Garden Park is a 6.1-acre working farm, model of sustainable agriculture, center of education, and vibrant gathering place — and one of our community’s greatest resources. Many of our classes and educational workshops take place at SGP, which is located at 19996 7th St. E. in Sonoma.

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Van Hoosear Wildflower Preserve

Van Hoosear is a stunning 163-acre privately owned preserve that is protected forever because of the work of Sonoma Ecology Center and its partners. We manage the preserve with the landowner and lead public walks each spring through its spectacular wildflower displays. Van Hoosear is home to more than 250 species of common and rare wildflowers and native grasses, and a favorite spot for our outings.

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Additional Land Protection Victories

Sonoma Ecology Center played a critical role in finding solutions with landowners and agencies that resulted in protecting the following open spaces. All are important parts of Sonoma Valley that residents and visitors, both human and non-human, cherish:

Montini Open Space Preserve
Calabazas Creek Open Space Preserve
600-acre Addition to Jack London State Historic Park
Stuart Creek Run

Contact us to discuss our land preservation capabilities!


Land Protection Staff

Richard Dale

Richard Dale

Executive Director

BA Environmental Policy, UC Santa Cruz

Richard has nearly 30 years of experience in environmental policy and nonprofit management. With expertise in land negotiation, he has worked with multiple interest groups, and encouraged policies to establish protected lands. He co-founded Sonoma Ecology Center in 1990 and has been director since 1992.

Caitlin Cornwall

Caitlin Cornwall

Research Program Manager

BA Integrative Biology, UC Berkeley; MS Botany and Ecology, Arizona State University

Caitlin has been with Sonoma Ecology Center since 1998. Her expertise includes indicator-based reporting systems, climate adaptation, technical partnerships for local-scale multiple stakeholders, multi-benefit water management strategy, wildlife habitat connectivity, and riparian ecology.

Community Partners

  • California State Parks
  • California State Parks Foundation
  • City of Sonoma
  • Landpaths
  • Robert Ferguson Observatory
  • Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District
  • Sonoma Land Trust
  • Sonoma Overlook Trail Stewards
  • Sonoma County Trails Council
  • Valley of the Moon Natural History Association
  • United Camps, Conferences & Retreats

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