Voters overwhelmingly favored preserving open spaces, such as this 823-acre site on Taylor Mountain overlooking Santa Rosa that the Open Space District bought for $18 million in 2006. PC:  Hikers on Taylor Mountain above Santa Rosa are surveyed by the local bovines during a moonlight walk with the Open Space District led by LandPaths, the public access arm of the district. File photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat

Hikers on Taylor Mountain above Santa Rosa are surveyed by the local bovines during a moonlight walk with the Open Space District led by LandPaths, the public access arm of the district. File photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat

On most of my hikes, I see very few people outside of our group. Generally, a handful of other hikers will pass by, or some (very) intrepid cyclists. Once, we were semi-lost up near Clear Lake and from the woods appeared a helpful older fellow on a white horse (kind of a ‘Lord of the Rings’-esque moment, in retrospect) who provided some helpful directions and guidance. Sure, in parks such as Annadel and others that are closer to cities, seeing packs of mountain bikers or streams of other hikers happens, but after a few miles into most trails, the crowd significantly winnows.

I’m no fan of stepping over horse manure, or having to quickly hurdle into the bushes to get out of the way of speeding cyclists, but both instances are rare. In fact, a few weeks ago when a hiking acquaintance snapped her ankle halfway up a mountain, local bicyclists helped make a bad situation tolerable. And particularly out on the coast, or way up a mountain, sometimes it’s nice to see other human life pass by.

I was thinking of this while reading a letter in the Press Democrat (yes, the actual honest-to-God printed newspaper, not the Web site…..) this morning referring to Taylor Mountain, which was recently added to the public domain and is opening this week for some limited access. I blogged about this a few weeks ago and know nothing about the area, but it sounds worth checking out and overdue for public exploration. The area, which overlooks much of Santa Rosa and should have some excellent hiking and walking trails, will be accessed initially through a permit program, and orientation sessions for that are starting. An article earlier this week in the PD talked about plans to open access to the property. In the letter to the editor, the head of the California State Parks Mounted Assistance Unit took a county supervisor to task for suggesting that hikers, horseback riders and cyclists don’t mesh well on the trails. The official is “out of touch”,” wrote JoDean Nicolette in her letter.

Here’s the exact quote from the article:

“We want kids to explore it every day, and on weekends have horseback riders and hikers and bikers through there,” county Supervisor Shirlee Zane said. “Apparently they don’t all get along, but it is not every day we get to open a piece of property in an urban backyard.”

(Read the complete article here by Bleys Rose.)

I asked Zane what she thought about access to Taylor Mountain. She told me that a contentious meeting back in 2008 with different user groups had stymied efforts to move ahead with the Open Space District, and that she pushed the District to move ahead with a plan to get the property open to the public by the end of 2009.

zane

Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane

Zane, who described herself as a “a lifetime hiker and former equestrian that vacations every year in England’s Lake District and Yosemite”, said she was thrilled that the park is finally opening.

“The point is that we are opening Taylor Mountain for permit passes this Saturday because I championed the opening and the users conflict regarding the planning stages did occur. I am pleased that there has been no further conflict since we met at Taylor Mountain to discuss our plans for the opening in June,” Zane wrote. “I am thrilled that the public will now have access to this wonderful urban park, especially the school children in the Kiwana School District who have limited access to open spaces.”