Letters to the Editor on the topic of the Over the Mountain Trail (Mitsui-Lafferty) Proposal
(most recent first)

Petaluma Argus-Courier, Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Appeal to Help Open Lafferty Park

EDITOR: This is an open letter to Assemblyman Joe Nation:

I was really excited to learn of the generous offer that Bonnie Mitsui has made that could finally lead to the opening of Lafferty Park to the public, something that is long overdue.

When I moved to Petaluma 11 years ago, I had just completed five years as a volunteer hike leader on Mount Tamalpais with the state park, and I knew what a marvelous activity hiking is. It brings generations together, offers health benefits for our much-too-overweight citizenry, and engenders an appreciation for the natural world that cannot be gleaned from books. All around, it is a splendid way to spend a day! And I can honestly say that in all those years I never encountered anyone who was on the mountain to create havoc. Quite the contrary.

So, I really looked forward to exploring southern Sonoma County and finding great places to hike near my new home. Of course, I was to be completely disappointed -- there IS no hiking worth the name in the south county. And then to learn that Petaluma owned a magnificent property that we were not allowed to visit was almost more than I could believe. What a different mindset in this county. In Marin, where I lived for over 10 years, all you had to do was trip out your back door and open space -- the type you can actually walk on -- was practically a stone's throw away, no matter what part of the county you lived in.

Regarding the issue of road safety, I have driven up Sonoma Mountain Road several times, and although increased safety measures are never a bad goal, I challenge anyone to drive the road from the Pan Toll ranger station on Mount Tam up to the Rock Springs parking lot and tell me that Sonoma Mountain Road is more difficult. And the Mount Tam road is traveled by thousands and thousands of people every year, who simply take the obvious precautions and drive slowly on a steep, winding road.

Publicly-owned Lafferty Ranch is a magnificent treasure that has been denied to Californians for far too long. Bonnie Mitsui's generous offer to donate a trail across her property promises to make Lafferty part of an expansive Sonoma Mountain park and trail system of truly statewide significance.

Please provide your leadership to pull together all the state and local agencies to finally realize the public benefits of this splendid natural resource. The people of Sonoma County deserve no less.


Petaluma Argus-Courier, Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Open Our Inaccessible Mountaintop Park

EDITOR: It continues to amaze me that Sonoma County has taken more than 10 years to find a way to open Petaluma's Lafferty Park, our "mountaintop cathedral," a smaller ridgetop park equivalent in its views to Mount Tamalpais or Tilden Park.

Having moved from San Francisco and earlier, the East Bay, I know that these "top of the world" vistas give a sense of place and scope that can't be had without preserving ridgetops as accessible park land. Holly Near claims the inspiration for her songs comes from Tilden Park; I know that park and its views were an essential presence in my East Bay life. Lafferty would be this for our children growing up now.

How quickly public "information" changes. Seems just a month (though perhaps about a year) ago I was reminded at

Petaluma City Council that in recent years several thousand Sonoma residents signed petitions in favor of opening Petaluma's mountaintop vista. Yet in this week's Argus-Courier, a letter from some misinformed writer stated that "about 50" people support this park!

Considering the fact that the general public has been kept off our land for over 10 years, there continues to be strong support for opening the park.

Petaluma owns Lafferty -- and we owe it to the children of Sonoma County to let them hike on the highest hills above their homes, to have this real sense of ownership of their homeland. Currently, just a few rich folk have the chance to enjoy these views, even though there is a plan to complete the parking area and there is a new offer to allow folks over a small strip of land (an easement) that would give public access to our public land.

Still, the Open Space District hesitates to come forward with at least seed funding and a real commitment to open Lafferty Park and looks at much less dramatic park land in flat areas to spend our Open Space District dollars.

A whole generation of children have grown up with Lafferty inaccessible. I appeal to Mike Kerns and other Sonoma County supervisors to reach into our Open Space District funds and help us open this magnificent park as soon as possible.


(NOTE: A shorter version of this letter appeared in the Press Democrat a few days earlier.)

Petaluma Argus-Courier, Wednesday, July 2, 2003

Leadership sought on Lafferty trail offer

EDITOR: We have sent the following letter to each of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, Assemblyman Joe Nation; California Senator John Burton; U. S. Representative Lynn Woolsey; each member of the Petaluma City Council and City Manager Bierman; Ruth Coleman, California State Parks Acting Director; Caryl O. Hart, Chair, California State Park and Recreation Commission; and Sam Schuchat, Executive Officer, California Coastal Conservancy.

We are writing to request your leadership in opening Petaluma's city-owned mountain top site, Lafferty Ranch, as a wilderness park. The recreational and educational benefits to county residents, and others, would be immeasurable. Wild creatures would benefit when trails are added to the area, for such trails would provide corridors to facilitate their movement. Not only would Lafferty offer hiking and wildlife study opportunities, but it would create appreciation in our children and grandchildren of the beauty of the natural world.

Opponents to opening Lafferty have claimed that Sonoma Mountain Road would require the spending of $3 to $4 million for improvements in order to reduce any danger created by the increased traffic which would come with access to Lafferty. However, an expert in transportation engineering stated that such extensive work is unnecessary and has provided a detailed safety plan for the road, a plan which would cost only about $10,000. (For more information, see the Lafferty Park Road Safety Report at http://www.laffertyranch.org/ history/roadprop.htm.)

We must also ask why the county considers road safety a major problem in connection with Lafferty, when the same county officials raised no objection to the road into the new park site at the end of Fitzpatrick Lane west of Occidental. The latter is narrow and filled with blind curves and many driveways hidden by trees. And why is Los Alamos Road to Hood Mountain Regional Park east of Santa Rosa -- which is at least as dangerous as Sonoma Mountain Road -- not considered too hazardous for public use? There is apparently a double standard when it comes to the safety of the road to Lafferty.

Ms. Bonnie Mitsui, owner of the 630-acre ranch adjacent to Lafferty, has generously offered to donate a trail easement across her property to provide a link to Jack London State Park on the other side of Sonoma Mountain. Those of us who have long advocated opening Lafferty Ranch as a park are grateful to Ms. Mitsui. And we are certain that with strong leadership and the cooperation of the appropriate state and local agencies, we can finally achieve this goal. The magnificent space which is Lafferty Ranch has been denied to Californians for much too long.


Petaluma Argus-Courier, Wednesday, July 9, 2003

A response to Mr. Caruana

EDITOR: In a July 2 letter to the editor, Mr. Caruana dismissed the supporters of Lafferty Park as a small group of zombies, followers of Mr. Larry Modell, guru, who somehow also managed to control the Internet. He cast doubt on the gracious and generous Bonnie Mitsui and her motives and calls for an investigation no less. Once again, Caruana chose personal attacks and innuendoes. It warrants a personal response.

Mr. Caruana, I've been an avid reader of your correspondence for a dozen years. You have always purported to tell us, the citizens of Petaluma, what our real needs, wishes and aspirations should be. Your hand is right on the pulse of Petaluma. I believe that, though you still sign as a Petaluman, this was the first time you actually admitted you are a Sonoma Mountain dweller and a member of the Sonoma Mountain Conservancy.

I understand you may fear being impacted by a park on Lafferty, but this fear makes you a "concerned citizen" only in the sense that you are concerned about yourself. Similarly, your "conservancy" only conserves the mountain for its members. Take note of Mr. Pfendler's mile-long chain link fence, which prevents the free movement of wildlife on the mountain.

Yes, it's true, we do have an outstanding Internet site at www.laffertyranch.org, which costs us $8 per month. The conservancy, however, has at least one up on us: You have a battery of well-connected and expensive lawyers and lobbyists.

You claim to be an authority on the facts (which we distort), yet you must be aware that after the expensive EIR, forced upon the city by your lawyers, Petaluma did not continue with the park because of litigation threats. You also know that Lafferty has hundreds of dedicated supporters who volunteer their time for the benefit of all and of future generations. You may recall that in 1996, both the polls and the signed initiatives showed that a great majority of Petaluma voted for Lafferty, while the hired guns of your side were convicted of a major voter fraud.


[NOTE: This letter was written in response to this letter by Michael Caruana.]

Petaluma Argus-Courier, Wednesday, July 2, 2003

Pro-Lafferty letters questioned

EDITOR: I am a home owner on Sonoma Mountain Road and a member of the Sonoma Mountain Conservancy. You will soon be receiving a barrage of e-mails and faxes from the so called "Friends of Lafferty." The letters you will receive are all artificially orchestrated by Mr. Larry Modell. He has gone so far as to write most of the letter encouraging the 100 or so activists of the Friends of Lafferty to barrage you with these letters, so as to appear that a large group wants Lafferty Ranch turned into a pseudo park.

I just wanted you to know as a concerned citizen that would by highly impacted by this ill-conceived project that you will be receiving a lot of e-mails, not because there are a lot of people who believe or even care about this cause in Petaluma, but rather because of the highly technical Internet equipment available to this group to appear much larger than they are.

The items they will cite in their letters fly in the face of the very EIR study which was done for the City of Petaluma and officially adopted by the City Council in a public meeting. Even the letter of Bonnie Mitsui needs to be investigated. Since she lives in Ohio and not at the ranch on Sonoma Mountain, it would be interesting to know what she was told to get her to write this letter. To say nothing of the fact there are ranch owners on both sides of her property before you can access Lafferty Ranch or Jack London Park. I believe you have already been fed much data of dubious integrity and perhaps you should have a hearing with the other side to know the complete picture and not rely on one side of the story only. The facts as documented may surprise you greatly.


[NOTE: Yes indeed! Like every other public-interest advocacy group, Friends of Lafferty Park encourages its supporters to write to public officials and newspapers from time to time. To take part in this vast Internet conspiracy, see http://www.laffertyranch.org/letguide.htm
See also
Yigal Toister's response letter published July 9. - ed.]

Petaluma Argus-Courier, Wednesday, July 2, 2003

Thanks for offer of trail easement

EDITOR: I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Bonnie Mitsui for her generous offer of a trail easement across her property located on top of Sonoma Mountain.

This trail would make a connection between the Sonoma and Petaluma sides of Sonoma Mountain, thus making it possible for one to hike from Petaluma to Jack London State Park. What a terrific and invaluable asset this would be for our communities!

In order for this dream to come to fruition, we need our elected officials (county supervisors and state legislators) to assert strong leadership. We do not want this golden opportunity to slip from our grasp. Please write to Mike Kerns and Joe Nation and request that they work with the State Parks Department to implement this long-planned trail, ranked as the number one highest priority during the county workshops done in conjunction with the Outdoor Recreation Plan development.

I hope to hike to Jack London State Park with my children and show them the view of their town from the top of the mountain.

KIM NADEAU, Penngrove

[NOTE: A similar letter was published in the June 30 Press Democrat.]

Petaluma Argus-Courier, Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Trail link to Lafferty a wonderful opportunity

EDITOR: I've just read the article about the offer by Bonnie Mitsui to donate a trail easement across her property which would link Jack London State Park to Lafferty Ranch. What a wonderful opportunity to provide the people of Sonoma County with an excellent and desperately needed wilderness park.

Presently the dearth of public open space in the south county is a mighty shame. I've lived, worked, raised a family and paid taxes in Petaluma for 25 years. Yet nearly all of the beautiful surrounding countryside is off limits to the public. The sad irony is that a person needs to go to Marin or far north Sonoma County if they want to walk more than a couple of miles or get on a mountain top.

I've been fortunate to go on some of the city sponsored tours of Lafferty in the 1990s and I've walked up to the top of Jack London park (so tantalizingly close to the summit). I know what treasures Lafferty and Sonoma Mountain are. Lafferty is meant to be a park. It is one of the most beautiful places in the Bay Area. The people of Sonoma desire and need access to it. Hey we own it!

Whatever the true motives of the opponents to the park are the main stated objection is that Sonoma Mountain Road is inadequate for increased traffic. Access by foot from Jack London Park would take the pressure off the road. I must say, however, that having driven and walked up and down that road I think it is one of the better country roads in the county. I hope that the our elected representatives and interested public agencies will sincerely and seriously support making Lafferty Ranch a publicly accessible park. I know that Lafferty park will be a jewel treasured by generations to come.


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