Letter by Larry Modell to the editors of the Petaluma Argus Courier and Press Democrat, published November 12 and 14, 1998, respectively

Election Brightens Lafferty's Future

Editor: Local pundits haven't yet noticed, but the biggest winners in the Petaluma city elections may be those who want to enjoy a nature park at Lafferty Ranch. Matt Maguire and Janice Cader-Thompson are widely known for their longstanding advocacy of keeping and opening Lafferty. But both Clark Thompson and Mike Healy have a strong pro-Lafferty records and campaign positions, as well. So while the new city council will undoubtedly find some points of disagreement, the future of Lafferty Ranch doesn't figure to be among them.

For the first time since the Lafferty Ranch controversy erupted in 1992, we can expect to hear Petaluma's elected officials speaking with one voice on this important question. Not coincidentally, that voice will reflect the wishes of most Petalumans that Lafferty Ranch be opened promptly for public enjoyment.

Of course, the proposed park has become a county issue as well. Mike Kerns' stated positions on Lafferty have been murky, but not overtly opposed to public access as outlined in the City's EIR and Lafferty Park Management Plan.

Kerns has said he wants to resolve the issue through compromise with neighboring landowners. It is crucial to understand that Petaluma's access plan already IS precisely such a compromise. This plan was painstakingly developed over many months by the city's Lafferty Access Committee, with input from concerned neighbors as well as park proponents. Committee members included park neighbors Pat Cheda and John Saemann, now president of the Sonoma Mountain Conservancy. Park proponents conceded a number of critical points, such as the 24-hour access which is commonplace in similar parks throughout the region, in order to assuage neighbors' concerns.

Mike Kerns is uniquely positioned to resolve this issue, due to his influence with park neighbors. He will bring peace to the Lafferty controversy if he uses that influence to convince the neighbors to embrace the generous and fair-minded compromise embodied in the City's access plan -- a compromise they helped craft.

Larry Modell

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