Parking and trail update: April 2015: Seasonal Trail Closures: All single track trails are open to bikes & equestrians. The Freezeout parking lot is currently open to horse trailers.
WILLOW CREEK TRANSITION UPDATE & JAMBOREE AUGUST 2015:
Dear Friends of Willow Creek,
Help celebrate 10 years of free permit-based access, applaud those instrumental to protecting Willow Creek forever, and launch Willow Creek’s future as a traditional State Park. Come out to Willow Creek on Oct. 4th for a Willow Creek Jamboree!
LandPaths appreciates you, the permit holding public and our partners at Willow Creek.
Folks like you have been here from the start—when Jonathan Glass from LandPaths traveled to Sacramento in April of 2005 to make a promise to the State of California. With you, we have fulfilled our promise. We have kept Willow Creek open to the public well beyond the planned three years, and through state budget deficits and park closures. And we did this with and for the community without mandating a fee to explore the land.
One of the most rewarding aspects of tending Willow Creek has been the community of remarkable volunteers who have stepped up to make this People Powered Park a reality.
While there have been hiccups, none have been significant as the accomplishments. Some of the most remarkable observations—the lack of trash, and the number of calls we get not just to tell us a tree is down, but to tell us the tree has been removed. You all volunteered time to learn about Willow Creek and act as a steward with each and every visit. Some of you powered the Road and Trails Crew to inventory the property, built an information kiosk, installed and maintained trail signage, led Orientations and Outings, and even came to meetings. The jamboree is for you!
Our belief in you and People Powered Parks is stronger today a result of our collective work.
We remain ever committed to the community and hope you will take an interest in LandPaths Outings and invest your time and energy in other LandPaths-owned People Powered Parks in the area: Bohemia Ecological Preserve and the Grove of the Old Trees. The land can always benefit from a good friend and steward.
Your Willow Creek permits will be active until the Park opens under new system.
LandPaths will continue to offer permit orientations through December 2015. If you know anyone who always meant to get a permit, now is the time! Your 2015 permit will be valid for access until State Park initiates a new access system.
Willow Creek will still need stewards, and the volunteer efforts will continue in the hands of our partners, Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, the non-profit supporting California State Parks in the Russian River District. We are beginning that transition now, and will complete it by the end of the year.
If you have any questions or comments regarding the changes to come please send them to Mike Lair with California State Parks (Mike.Lair@parks.ca.gov). And, don’t forget to mark your calendar for the Willow Creek Jamboree—a boisterous gathering in the outdoors.
To many more adventures on the land together!
Your Friends at LandPaths
WILLOW CREEK HIGHLIGHTS:
This spectacular 3,373-acre "community-powered" park near Duncans Mills covers much of the Willow Creek and Freezeout Creek watersheds. Its rolling grasslands, forested ravines, and fish-bearing streams are home to an abundance of plants and wildlife. Hikers, bikers and equestrians will enjoy the 15 mile network of old logging and ranch roads, accessible through a free permit-for-use program (see below for details). These roads & trails connect with adjacent State Park lands, allowing users to hike or ride the 7+ miles from Duncans Mills to Shell Beach - all on State Park land.
Due to the ongoing State Parks budget crunch, LandPaths has been asked to continue providing access at Willow Creek through a Permit-for-Use program (started in 2005). A permit for hiking, biking, and horseback access is issued after a 1-hour orientation on the property. Read on for details about this innovative program and how you can help keep it going.
A cadre of dedicated volunteers (like you!) provide the "community power" for Willow Creek. LandPaths works in partnership with volunteers, neighbors, State Parks, Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods and others to ensure this beautiful land remains accessible and well cared for. See our Willow Creek calendar for upcoming dates to get involved.
PERMITTED ACCESS - HIKE, BIKE OR HORSEBACK RIDE:
If you would like to obtain a permit to hike, bike or horseback ride at Willow Creek, simply follow these steps:
1. Read these details
2. Download a Willow Creek Application & The MRC Seed Orchard Application bring them both with you to an orientation (see links in right column)
3. Attend an orientation (see calendar for upcoming dates).
This permit will allow you to hike, bike or horseback ride on the property at your leisure, subject to State Parks terms and conditions (below). As you may be aware, this beautiful 3,387-acre property has been added to the Sonoma Coast State Beach, purchased with funding from the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation & Open Space District, California Coastal Conservancy, California Wildlife Conservation Board and State Parks.
As you have heard, with the state budget crunch still looming, State Parks has asked LandPaths to continue access and stewardship programs at Willow Creek. Our goal is not only to ensure that hiking, biking, and equestrian access continues, but also to engage YOU in creating a more sustainable ‘Community Powered Park'. To accomplish this, we plan to step up our efforts, working with neighbors, park users, local businesses, State Parks, Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, and others.
Permit Terms and Conditions
Special Event Permits, when approved, shall be issued subject to the following provisions:
1. All activities and arrangements for use of the above mentioned property shall be at the direction of the District Superintendent or authorized representative.
2. Rules and regulations of the Department of Parks and Recreation unless specifically exempted or otherwise noted shall be observed by the permittee, employee, agents, or contractors.
3. The only special activities granted permittee herein are those listed in writing on the permit.
4. Vehicles under the authority of the permittee will be parked in designated areas and vehicle shall display the issued parking pass.
5. Permittee will be responsible for any and all damage to the park unit or any State property that was a result of permittee's activities. The State will be sole judge of the extent of the damage and the extent of repairs required to remedy the damage. All repairs will be performed to the satisfaction of the State.
6. The hours of operation for this permit will be 8:00 am to Sunset; all vehicles will be removed from designated parking areas ½ hour after sunset.
7. The property will be open to public use from April 1st through the last day of November. Closure dates may be altered based on weather, road conditions, trail conditions, operational need, etc.
8. Prohibited activities include but are not limited to the following: possession of firearms, overnight camping, fires, off road vehicle use, and dogs on trails.
9. Permittee must attend an approved Department of Parks and Recreation orientation prior to accessing the property.
10. Permit must be renewed each year through LandPaths.
11. It is your responsibility to apprise LandPaths of your change of email, phone, and address. This is necessary in order for you to receive timely updates on the property, including seasonal openings / closures, gate combination changes, etc.
LandPaths has been working with volunteers to provide ‘community power' to the Willow Creek property since 2001. Volunteers serve as ‘eyes and ears' as part of the Willow CreekTrail Watch program, and help with trail maintenance through the Stewardship Crew. In the past year alone, over 60 volunteers have spent hundreds of hours reporting on property conditions, inventorying culverts, installing trail signs, removing downed trees from trails, providing user data for State Parks planning, and more.
LandPaths oversees the Trail Watch and Stewardship Crew programs as part of a partnership with State Parks & Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods. Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods also offers other volunteer opportunities in the Willow Creek watershed.
Current opportunities to volunteer are listed in our Willow Creek calendar. If you would like to learn more about taking on a volunteer leadership role in this community-powered park, please contact us.
DOCENT LED HIKES:
Since 2001, LandPaths has led over 40 docent led hikes at Willow Creek. When the property was acquired by State Parks in 2005, LandPaths began partnering with State Parks and Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, increasing the total number of hikes offered on this property.
Hikes cover a variety of themes, from native-American history to badger habitat; from watershed restoration to grassland health. Routes range from the 3.5 miles Islands in the Sky loop to the 8-mile through hike from Duncans Mills to the coast.
LandPaths' docent led hikes are listed in our Willow Creek calendar. Stewards of the Coast and Redwoodshikes are listed on their website.
HISTORY OF ACCESS & STEWARDSHIP PROGRAMS:
State Park Ownership: In May 2005, Willow Creek was acquired as an addition to Sonoma Coast State Park through contributions from the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation & Open Space District, theCalifornia Coastal Conservancy and other partners. Without funding for access and stewardship programs,California State Parks made the acquisition contingent on LandPaths' assistance.
Since 2005, LandPaths has been working in partnership with State Parks to provide permitted access and volunteer stewardship programs, including a Trail Watch & Stewardship Crew. LandPaths has also worked closely with Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, another local non-profit organization that provides public education and resource protection programs in the Willow Creek watershed.
The California State Coastal Conservancy funded LandPaths' programs beginning in 2005, with the goal of transitioning full park operations to State Parks by the grant's end in June 2009. As a result of the current state budget crisis, State Parks doesn't have the staffing or budget to take on LandPaths' access and stewardship programs. At the request of State Parks, LandPaths is working to further develop a "Community Powered Park" model as a means to leverage additional community investment and ensure Willow Creek remains stewarded and accessible to all.
From 2005 to mid-2009, LandPaths issued nearly 1,900 access permits, hosted over 50 orientations, & led 30 hikes, including topics to enrich people's understanding of the property and its value to the region as a whole. LandPaths recruited a core group of 60 volunteers who have posted trail signs, inventoried roads and culverts for sediment sources, and serve as the eyes and ears of the property. LandPaths also completed significant watershed-scale restoration work on old ranch and logging roads to protect salmonid habitat.
Previous Ownership: Prior to State Parks' acquisition, LandPaths had been providing free permitted public access (hiking, mountain biking and horseback) & volunteer stewardship programs at Willow Creek since 2001, working in partnership with Mendocino Redwood Company (MRC). This innovative permit-for-use program was the first of its kind in Sonoma County. A similar model is now being considered at Tolay Regional Park and Taylor Mountain Open Space Preserve.
Permitted access to the property is currently via the Freezeout Flat park entrance near Duncans Mills. This parking area is behind a locked gate. After attending a permit orientation, permit holders are issued a combination to this gate. State Parks is currently working on a Road and Trails plan for the property. This plan will involve a detailed inventory and analysis of circulation on the property and will consider other access points and guide development of additional trails.
Directions: Take 116 west to Duncans Mills, turn LEFT on Moscow Rd go through town and across the bridge, immediately as you exit the bridge look for Freezeout road on your Right hand side. Turn RIGHT (south) on Freezeout Road (immediately after the bridge) and look for the 2nd gate on your left; proceed through gate to parking. NOTE: Gate is locked except during scheduled outings and events. Permit holders are issued a combination to this gate.