January 16, 2020. After some confusion about new rules related to road closures at SDC, the California Department of General Services and Permit Sonoma have clarified that all of the existing hiking and biking trails on the SDC property are still open and available for public use consistent with visitor rules for public safety and natural resource protection. This includes the trails around Lake Suttonfield that are accessible from Sonoma Valley Regional Park, and the trails on the western portion of the property that connect with Jack London State Historic Park.
In a January 9, 2019 letter to the community (see below), the California Department of Developmental Services details the road closures going into effect on the campus that are designed to prevent vandalism, trespass, and property damage to empty buildings and aging infrastructure. As the letter states, pedestrian and cyclist access is still allowed. A reference in the letter to a prohibition on “hiking” at Lake Suttonfield and Fern Lake caused public confusion and concern, and the state and county were quick to clarify that hiking on designated trails that go along the perimeter of the lakes is still allowed. For obvious public safety and liability concerns, the state does not want people leaving trails to access the lakes directly. This is consistent with the longstanding prohibition on swimming and fishing in the lakes at SDC as well.
The Sonoma Ecology Center, the Sonoma Land Trust, and the Glen Ellen Forum have offered to work with the state to develop trail maps and signposts to keep hikers in the areas where they are supposed to be, and to educate visitors about how they can support stewardship and protection of the land. We will keep you updated on the status of this effort. Meanwhile, if you are taking a hike, cycling, or walking your dog at SDC, please remember that when the facility closed in 2018, a lot of the maintenance, landscaping, and engineering staff were laid off. At this point, there are no full time rangers or personnel similar to state or county park rangers or volunteers at nearby parks. The state is rightfully concerned about limiting the potential for injury, harm, and water contamination at SDC, so let’s all do our part by observing trail rules and signs, packing out all trash and animal waste, and working together to take care of this remarkable community asset.
By John McCaull, Land Acquisition Program Manager, Sonoma Land Trust
The Transform SDC Blog site was launched in 2014 to provide the Sonoma Valley community — and those interested in the future of the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) — a forum and information source for news related to the closure of SDC. For more information, please post a response on the blog site, or email John McCaull at email@example.com.