Journey to Saddle Mountain

Category: branching out conservation for everyone, Community Resilience, outings, Saddle Mountain Open Space Preserve, Stewardship

By Leilani Clark

February 4, 2020


On the eastern boundary of Santa Rosa sits a special place called Saddle Mountain. Once at risk of development, the 960-acre preserve is home to portions of the Mark West Creek watershed and the Santa Rosa Creek Creek in the very official sounding Russian River Drainage Basin.

The protection of the land wouldn’t have happened without the perseverance of the Friends of the Mark West Watershed. The neighborhood group formed in 2003 when neighbors united to protect nearby open space, including Saddle Mountain.  In 2006, the property was acquired and permanently protected by the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District (Ag + Open Space).

26 participants ventured to Saddle Mountain for the February 2 outing with LandPaths.

Richard “Mapache” Baril, who lives in the area and is a core volunteer at our popular nature camps at Rancho Mark West, joined LandPaths on a recent outing to share the story of how the preserve came to be.

The preserve is also home to at least eight federally protected plant species, including Clara Hunt’s Milk-Vetch (Astragalus clarianus), commonly known as Napa Milk-Vetch.

David Berman of Sonoma Water, discussed the significance of Saddle Mountain to watershed health. He brought with him a replica of an adult Coho salmon, to remind us all of the presence and importance of this keystone species.

On the hike, Monica Delmartini, a stewardship specialist with Sonoma County Ag and Open Space,  shared what’s next for the land in terms of management. This spring, Ag + Open Space plans will employ Saddle Mountain as a “research site” for prescribed burns. Delmartini explained the importance of re-introducing small scale fires into our landscapes. The hope is that the burns will increase the growth of native flowers, and support the growth of native grasslands by reducing invasives.

“We enjoyed the day in gratitude, knowing the site will be conserved and enhanced over the years,’ says LandPaths bilingual outing specialist Jesica Rodriguez. And a special thanks to 1st District County Supervisor Susan Gorin, for taking the time to join us on the land.

As one participant said, “It’s important to look at all the different components of this place to figure out what’s best.” 

For more on hiking Saddle Mountain with LandPaths, don’t miss this great story from 2019 over at Hike Then Wine, a local hiking blog!

Learn more about Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District’s acquisition and protection of Saddle Mountain.

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