.Mark West Area Renaissance

The Mark West-Larkfield-Wikiup area between Windsor and Santa Rosa, located in a big local burn scar, seems to be having a bit of a renaissance this year. It was ravaged by the Tubbs Fire in 2017, then grazed again by the Kincade Fire two summers later. James Gore, the Sonoma County supervisor for that zone, says he told residents back then that “we were not just going to rebuild, but rebuild better.” Many of those efforts are now coming to fruition — including new roads, a new community park and a large nature preserve geared toward “habitat preservation, fire risk management and low-impact recreation.” Here are some details on the new roads and park, from the county: “On May 11, Supervisor Gore and Mark West residents celebrated the completion of a County project to improve Mark West Springs Road between Old Redwood Highway and Ursuline Road. The Department of Public Infrastructure repaved and striped the road while installing new bike lanes, sidewalks, curbs and storm drain culverts. The sidewalks feature ‘sparkle grain’ in the design of a flowing river that shimmers in the sunlight, just as Mark West Springs Road flows through the community connecting people. At the intersections are three landmark plinths bearing key words — renewal, unity and resilience — that embody the way neighbors came together to support each other after the fires. Following a ceremony to officially open the new sidewalks, residents walked down the street and celebrated the recent acquisition of a one-acre vacant lot that will become a community park. The property, located off Old Redwood Highway, was the site of a preschool that burned to the ground during the 2017 wildfires.” They held a big party that afternoon at the park site. Plans include a gazebo, play structure, “cutting-edge” water fountain and drought-tolerant butterfly garden, according to the Press Democrat — representing a community “rebirth” in the years since the fire. Community members raised the millions they needed to buy the 1-acre property and build it out through a nonprofit they started called the Mark West Area Community Fund. They’ve also had help from the county’s Ag + Open Space department and the Sonoma Land Trust org, which usually manages larger wildlands. Land Trust leaders tell the PD they’re stoked on the opportunity to move away from the “siloed approach that you have wild spaces over here and agriculture here and cities here,” instead exploring more “interconnected” urban green space. The Mark West comeback does involve some full-on wildlands as well, though. Just outside town, near the Safari West animal park, the county’s parks department is getting ready to open the 1,200-acre Mark West Creek Regional Park and Open Space Preserve to the public later this year. “Gentle canyons of oak woodlands and evergreen forests bisect the preserve, with open meadows providing views of the Mayacamas and Mount St. Helena to the north,” the Healdsburg Tribune reports. “The creeks are salmon habitat, the woods a songbird’s home; wildlife from vole to cougar can be found.” The county’s Ag + Open Space arm also just purchased another 30-acre plot of nature next door from the Jackson wine family, which they’re calling the Mark West Wikiup Preserve. “Home to half-a-mile of Mark West Creek, oaks, riparian habitat, and grassy open space in a residential neighborhood, conservation of this property will enable Sonoma Water to offer public access to the preserve,” the county says. Last thing to mention: Just a few miles south, at the Nagasawa Community Park in the Fountaingrove neighborhood of Santa Rosa — likewise wiped out by Tubbs scar — the county is “seeking proposals from qualified artists or artist teams to design, create and install artwork honoring the victims of the devastating 2017 wildfires and commemorating the community’s resilience.” This memorial is meant to “serve as a lasting tribute to those who lost their lives, a testament to the enduring spirit of our community, and a space for reflection and healing,” in the words of another county supervisor. Submit your proposals here through July 19 to join the renaissance. (Source: Press Democrat & Press Democrat & County of Sonoma via Facebook & Sonoma County Ag + Open Space & Sonoma County Parks & Sonoma Economic Development Board & Mark West Area Community Fund & Healdsburg Tribune)


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