Lafferty Park atop Sonoma Mountain as seen from Petaluma FLP Letter Guidelines, Summer 2003 Winter cascade of Adobe Creek in Lafferty Park

Friends of Lafferty Park has published the following guidelines for writing letters to key decision makers at the Caifornia State, Sonoma County, and Petaluma City level during the Summer of 2003.

UPDATE 7/16: A terrific number of excellent letters have been received and acknowledged by key public officials. Thank you all! We're now asking people to hold off writing any further letters to State officials on this topic until after the State budget impasse has been resolved. We'll let you know when that situation changes. Meanwhile, letters to the editor are still a great idea. See Newspaper Letter Guidelines, below.

Letters to Public Officials:

Letters seeking to influence public officials should always have a civil and respectful tone! Also, for tactical reasons, at this time we ask that you please do not over-emphasize the sometimes contentious aspects of the 11-year effort to open Lafferty Park.

10-minute email version:

  1. Click the link in this box once to open a pre-addressed email window (but don't send it yet!):
Click here

Note: If the above doesn't work for you, start an email as follows:
Subj: Mitsui trail and Lafferty

  1. Write the body of the letter, or paste in the following text as a starting point:

Dear Assemblyman Nation:

I want to express my enthusiastic support for strong State leadership in opening Lafferty Park to the public, and connecting it via the trail offered by Bonnie Mitsui to Jack London State Park.

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 these splendid amenities.

  1. If you used the stock language above, rewrite AT LEAST the opening paragraph in your own words -- but make it very clear that you support opening Lafferty Ranch and the Mitsui trail connection to Jack London State Park.
  2. (Optional) Consider changing the Subject line of your message, so they don't all look the same.
  3. (Optional) Consider making use of one or more of the Suggested Topics below, or think of your own, to rewrite the letter further. Your heartfelt statement drawn from personal experience is usually best. Fact-based arguments can also be effective.
  4. Add a closing to the bottom of your message, such as the word "Sincerely," followed by your full name and your full mailing address (important -- tells Legislators if you're in their district!).
  5. Add the following Cc: list below your closing (it's important for officials to see who ELSE is hearing from you):

Cc: Senator John Burton
Sonoma County Supervisors
Ruth Coleman, Calif. State Parks Acting Director
Caryl O. Hart, Chair, Calif. State Park & Rec. Commission
Sam Schuchat, Executive Officer, California Coastal Conservancy
Petaluma City Council, c/o City Manager Mike Bierman

  1. (Optional) If you live in another Legislative district, it's a good idea to add your Legislators' email addresses here and in the message's Cc: line as well, e.g., or
  2. Send the email!

(You might get a bounce message from Joe Nation's main Assembly address. Not to worry, the message should reach him via alternate channels.)

Suggested Topics
(Pick one that interests you or think up your own!):
  • Generosity. Bonnie Mitsui's offer to donate a 1.45 mile trail across her property shows astonishing generosity and neighborliness. One can only hope this will lead to an outbreak of goodwill among landowners where trail users are concerned throughout Sonoma County and California. For a little information on Bonnie, see

  • Long-planned park and trail. Lafferty is shown as a proposed park in the county's current General Plan. (One of the relevant 1989 GP maps is shown at ) In addition, the current version of the draft Outdoor Recreation Plan includes a proposed trail from the Petaluma Adobe to Jack London Park.  In a series of county public workshops held around 1998, this particular trail was rated by the 300-some participants as the single highest trail priority in the county. The Mitsui-Lafferty trail would implement more than half of this most-sought-after trail. 

  • Tradition. Completing this Over the Mountain trail would restore a cherished tradition fondly recalled by older Petalumans. In their youth, there was a tradition of spring hikes over Sonoma Mountain to picnic at Whitney Falls on Carriger Creek.  (More at  Hiking to picnic near the creeks and redwood groves (and little-known waterfalls!) of Jack London State Park would be a magnificent updating of that tradition. 

  • Health. Today's youth, 1 in 3 of whom are now predicted to develop diabetes ( ) due in large part to lack of exercise, need opportunities for healthful exercise in beautiful natural settings more than ever. The same can be said for people of all ages and backgrounds, for whom walking and hiking has become the #1 recreational activity of choice. The lack of appealing places for substantial hikes and other trail uses is no longer just a "lifestyle" issue, but a public health imperative.

  • History. Lafferty is equidistant between two State Historic Parks bearing the names of two of the region's most famous forebears, Mariano Vallejo and Jack London. Lafferty is no slouch in regard to history, either. It bears the name of its pioneer homesteader whose descendants throughout the U.S. are following the efforts to open the old ranch to the public with great interest. (See their family album with historic pictures of the Lafferty homestead.)

  • Road safety. Lafferty Park opponents, and some Sonoma County officials, have claimed Sonoma Mountain Road is too dangerous to permit any additional traffic, and that the only solution is to spend $3-4 million to bring it up to "AASHTO" standards, which would widen and straighten the road, encouraging higher speeds. Bruce Hagen of FLP has worked extensively with a bona fide expert in road design, Joern Kroll PhD, to analyze the safety aspects of the road and propose lower-cost, traffic-calming solutions. Clilck here to download Dr. Kroll's report in MS Word format (4.5 MB).

  • Wildlife corridors. Properly designed trails and public lands become corridors for wildlife to move about as well. Privatized landscapes like most of Sonoma Mountain today are very inhospitable to many native animals due to increasingly impassible fencing (see photos at ) Access to Lafferty's rare summer water sources would seem especially critical.

For more impact:

Joe Nation, 6th Assembly District
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0006
Phone: (916) 319-2006
Fax: (916) 319-2106


Letters to Newspaper Editors:

If possible, letters to the editor should refer to something the newspaper has recently published (see recent coverage in the PD and the Argus), and must be very brief.

For more information and help: Contact FLP volunteers Jerry Price ( 707-763-7610) or Larry Modell ( 707-778-0629) for information, suggestions, editing, etc.

Letters to the Press Democrat and other local papers can be sent to:

Letters Editor, The Press Democrat

200 words or less, signed, daytime phone number and street address for verification. Limit one letter every 90 days.

Northern California Bohemian Letters

300 words or less, signed, daytime phone number and street address for verification.

Letters to the Editor, San Francisco Chronicle

250 words or less, signed, daytime phone number and street address for verification.

Letters to the Editor, Petaluma Argus-Courier

300 words or less, phone number and street address for verification. Limit one letter per month

Letters to the Editor, Sonoma Index-Tribune