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Moving Forward (in Spite of it All)

Posted on May 14, 2020 by Admin

It’s not a stretch to say that what we are all experiencing right now with the COVID-19 pandemic is something none of us have ever seen before, expected or even imagined. I will be 73 next month and can certainly vouch that this is a first. The Corona virus has put a spotlight on the horror of a global sickness, something most of us never thought much about. Like 9/11, we are being confronted by things none of us ever wanted to contemplate and like 9/11 what we are discovering is that we have been caught asleep at the wheel.

Almost as bad as the virus itself is the generalized feeling that we should have been better prepared, “someone” should have known better (perhaps our government) and that this never should have happened in the first place. But similar to 9/11, it seems there must always be a first time and one cannot be prepared for everything, despite our best intentions. Like terrorism, the viral pandemic doesn’t care about a level playing field or being fair or the assumed sanctity of borders. And it makes even the most mundane things, like an errand to the grocery store, an undertaking fraught with risk and inconvenience as we head out armed with masks, hand sanitizer, and the awkward and unnatural maintenance of a 6-foot social distance. Indeed, we have never seen anything like this before, young or old.

As the daily news continually reminds us of what not to do, the question remains: What is left to do and what is best to do? For me, I have found that maintaining my own personal sanity and a positive attitude is at the top of the list and possibly one of the biggest challenges—and the biggest accomplishments. Despite the fact that “normal” has left the building, life still must go on.

To celebrate that intention, my wife Connie I and headed out to Stinson Beach for a long hike on Mother’s Day.* It was a perfect day for a long, hard hike due to a cold front that had blown in the night before, changing temperatures from the mid-90s to the mid-70s. Both of us having spent an idyllic childhood in Mill Valley, we were up to speed on where to park in Stinson in order to access the trails by foot. We were rewarded by a perfect day full of panoramic ocean views, spring wildflowers, old growth redwoods, and the feeling that we are truly blessed: out and about and enjoying all the beauty inherent in our glorious North Bay lifestyle……almost like normal.

As they say, we will get through this. And there are some things, like our beautiful corner of the world we know as “the North Bay area” that will endure and continue to offer up all its wonders to those who choose to live in this magical place we call home.

 

–Mark Stevens

May 2020

*Note: There were numerous courteous groups on the trail and when passing, we all applied our masks.

(More about the trail: The Steep Ravine Trail takes you to the Pan Toll Station, and from Stinson Beach to the Pan Toll station it is about a 1500 foot elevation climb)

News This Week: Election Results

Posted on November 09, 2018 by Mark Stevens

EACH WEEK WE COLLECT TOP LOCAL NEWS AND RECENT REAL ESTATE STORIES. 

 

1) Sonoma County Voters Approve Funds for Parks

Voters approved Measure M by an overwhelming margin on Tuesday. The Measure increases sales tax in Sonoma County by one eighth of a percent. Revenues will be used to maintain county and municipal parks. READ MORE

2) Butte County Fire Darkens Sonoma County Skies

Smoke from the Camp Fire, burning over a hundred miles to the north east of Sonoma County, is reminding many residents of the devastation that we experienced 13 months ago during the Tubbs Fire. READ MORE

3) Mixed Success for Affordable Housing Ballot Measures

There were seven measures on the Napa County and Santa Rosa ballots that aimed to address affordable housing issues. Of the seven measures, three failed to get the necessary votes. READ MORE

4) Prop. 6 Defeat Allows Infrastructure Improvements in Sonoma County to Continue

The defeat of Proposition 6 means that local projects such as SMART train expansion and Highway 101 widening will continue to receive funding. READ MORE

featured image courtesy of pressdemocrat.com

News This Week: Best Winery Experiences and Cabin Getaways

Posted on October 26, 2018 by Mark Stevens

EACH WEEK WE COLLECT TOP LOCAL NEWS AND RECENT REAL ESTATE STORIES

Best Sonoma County Wineries

With over 425 wineries in Sonoma County, it can be hard for a first time visitor to know where to go. This guide will help you experience the best wine tasting of the region. READ MORE

30 under 30

Check out this list of 30 inspiring future business leaders, politicians, and activists leading the way in Sonoma County. READ MORE

Cabin Getaways

Sad to see the end of Summer? Here are some extraordinary cabins that remind us that the point of cold nights is to cozy up by a fire and relax. READ MORE

Architectural Explainer

Sotheby’s International explores eight of the most common architectural styles that are available on the market today. READ MORE

*featured image courtesy of sunset.com

News This Week: August Home Sales and Auction Success

Posted on September 28, 2018 by Admin

EACH WEEK WE COLLECT TOP LOCAL NEWS AND RECENT REAL ESTATE STORIES

August Market Report

Reports are showing that August sales are still increasing over previous months. And that’s not all—comparative sales and home prices are higher than last year. READ MORE

Kosta Browne Hosting New Dinner Series

Beginning in November, Kosta Browne Winery will host exclusive dinners with custom menus created by renowned chefs. READ MORE

Newest American Viticulture Area in California

Winemakers in the new Petaluma Gap AVA are getting notice for the distinctive wines that are being made in the region. According to the Press Democrat, the cool climate produces “elegant, crisp and focused wines.” READ MORE

Record Set at Sonoma County Wine Auction

The love in the air is thicker than the smoke. This year’s Sonoma County Wine Auction raised $5.7 million for charity. Enthusiasm was fueled by the focus on rebuilding efforts after last years devastating wildfires. READ MORE

 

 

 

Fabulous New Hiking Grounds: Jenner Headlands Preserve

Posted on September 11, 2018 by Admin

Plan your visit

WHERE: The Jenner Headlands gateway is located 2 miles north of the town of Jenner on Highway 1. The gate will be open every day from 8 a.m. to sunset. Parking is limited.

DOGS: Dogs on leash are allowed on the headlands, though not on the final mile of Sea to Sky, which is on Pole Mountain land.

BIKES, HORSES: Neither mountain bikes nor horses are currently allowed on the headlands except during guided rides scheduled several times each year.

For more information and to subscribe to the preserve newsletter, visit their website.

JENNER — Anyone who has ever driven past the hills that rise sharply here from the coast north of the Russian River outlet and wondered about the view from the top need wait little longer.

On Friday, the gates to the Jenner Headlands Preserve will be open to the public, adding an open space larger than Trione-Annadel State Park to the mix of protected, accessible lands lining the scenic Sonoma Coast.

The step marks the culmination of more than a decade of planning and development, and the preserve — set aside with public and private money — offers some of the most stunning vistas to be found north of the Golden Gate, with a full suite wildlife and natural habitat shielded in perpetuity from housing development.

And the highest peak on the Sonoma Coast, 2,204-foot Pole Mountain, overlooks it all, beckoning to hikers up for a strenuous 15-mile round-trip trek with significant elevation gain.

“The best of Sonoma County,” is how Neal Fishman describes it. Now a board member of the Sonoma Land Trust, which helped spearhead deals that protected the properties, he was formerly deputy executive officer of the California Coastal Conservancy, which provided funding toward the $36 million headlands purchase in 2009.

The grand opening may be the most significant in a generation for hikers and other local nature enthusiasts in a region rich with opportunities to get out on the land.

“It’s something that folks here in Sonoma County and beyond have been looking forward to for a long time,” said Dave Koehler, executive director of Sonoma Land Trust, the Santa Rosa-based nonprofit.

At 5,630 acres, the headlands property offers nearly 14 miles of trails across varied terrain that includes mixed conifer forest, coastal prairie and oak woodland.

It spans more than 2.5 miles of the coast just north of the Russian River mouth, with steep hills that rise from the eastern side of Highway 1, giving visitors sweeping views of the ocean and coastline stretching south to Point Reyes National Seashore.

Its link with Pole Mountain, set aside in a 238-acre property purchased in 2014 by Sonoma Land Trust, offers hearty trekkers a chance to test their lungs and legs on a rare sea-to-peak climb.

The mountaintop, with a working fire lookout, takes in 360-degree views reaching far across the North Bay — to Cobb Mountain in Lake County, Mount St. Helena in Napa County and Mount Diablo in Contra Costa County.

On days without fog, you can see the Farallon Islands 20 miles outside the Golden Gate, said Bill Keene, general manager of the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District. The taxpayer-supported agency provided more than $9 million toward the headlands purchase, which remains the highest-dollar public land deal on record in Sonoma County.

It was the crowning achievement of a public-private campaign that began in 2005 and involved 10 funding partners by the time the deal was completed four years later, at the height of the nation’s economic crisis.

Held initially by the Sonoma Land Trust, the land was transferred in 2013 to the Southern California-based Wildlands Conservancy, which floated and guaranteed a combined $10.6 million in loans to close the sale at the 11th hour, according to those involved in the acquisition. The conservancy now manages the preserve. Other lenders for the deal included the Save the Redwoods League and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Additional funding came from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Forest Service, totaling nearly $7 million; the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, at $4 million; and the state Coastal Conservancy and Wildlife Conservation Board, totaling $16 million.

“The Sonoma Coast is such an incredible landscape, and people have been living there, enjoying the headlands for millennia,” Koehler said. “To take the effort of our partners who were able to protect that land 10 years ago and now be in a place where it can be open to the public for all to enjoy, we’re just really thrilled that this has come about, and we’re anxious to see people enjoying it.”

The subsequent $2.35 million purchase of Pole Mountain, extended the open space to the north and connected the headlands with another Sonoma Land Trust property, the 500-acre Little Black Mountain Preserve. The Pole Mountain deal included $1 million from the Open Space District, $650,000 from the California Wildlife Conservation Board, $350,000 from the state Coastal Conservancy and $350,000 from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

The resulting expanse of contiguous open space is more than 6,300 acres — approaching half the size of Manhattan.

The area was vulnerable to subdivision and development, particularly the headlands ranch, for which plans already had been drawn up, said Brook Edwards, preserve manager and regional director for the nonprofit Wildlands Conservancy. The Pole Mountain site also had been evaluated for vineyard development.

After the acreage was acquired, the focus shifted to thinning overgrown forest, shoring up streambeds and other steps to assure preservation of native plant species. Public access was always in the plans, but it took years to figure out exactly how to incorporate such use on a sensitive coastal landscape subject to tighter regulations.

The new public trailhead, a 6-acre gateway just off Highway 1, includes 34 parking spots in a split-level lot, a restroom, 400 feet of wheelchair-accessible pathway, a scenic overlook and day-use area designed to blend in with the scenery. It features a complex drainage system of bioswales, an infiltration pond, and dozens of pipes buried in the hillside to prevent runoff and erosion.

Native plants were put in to soften the effects of the infrastructure and rock quarried from the site has been used to try to mask the restroom, which is dug into the side of the hill. It has a living roof that should sprout plans once rain arrives, Edwards said.

From the day-use area, looping trails lead to places such as Raptor Ridge, Hawk Hill and Sentinel Point, located above Highway 1, where a permanent telescope has been installed for whale-watching and other uses.

The trail system is part of the California Coastal Trail, an envisioned 1,200-mile ribbon of pathways along the length of the state, within sight, sound and scent of the ocean.

The demanding Sea to Sky Trail leads to Pole Mountain offers what it advertises: a taxing 15-mile round-trip hike with no water along the way.

Intrepid hikers should start early and be prepared, advised Sonoma Land Trust spokeswoman Sheri Cardo.

Those who do, said Keene, “are going to be rewarded with one of the most epic views that you can get in the Bay Area, for sure.”

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