Fitch Mountain leader Laura Tietz of FireFreeFitch donated $15,000 to kick off the new Fitch Mountain Fund, Fourth District Sonoma County Supervisor Mike McGuire announced Thursday.
“We are ferociously serious fundraisers,” Tietz said after the announcement. “We’re looking for your money.
“This is the beginning of the fulfillment of a dream,” Tietz stated. “I’ve wanted it to be open for the public since I moved here seven years ago.
“It will be part of Healdsburg city life, as well as part of the lives of those of us who live on the mountain,” she said.
The Fitch Mountain Fund is dedicated to provide the working capital needed for enhancements to the recently purchased Fitch Mountain Park. The park is expected to open to the public in 2016.
Tietz's FireFreeFitch is a grassroots organization dedicated to the eradication of invasive species like Scotch broom and the clearing of defensible areas around the homes on Fitch Mountain.
Tietz's donation and the announcement of the Fitch Mountain Fund was followed by a community question-and-answer session Thursday at the Healdsburg Senior Center on the newly acquired open space on Fitch Mountain that is planned to be a public park.
Earlier this week, Healdsburg City Council and Sonoma Board of Supervisors both unanimously approved the purchase of 198.7 acres at the top of Fitch Mountain, as reported on Healdsburg Patch. (Read more here.)
Partners in the deal are the Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, working with the City of Healdsburg and the local environmental organization LandPaths.
At Thursday's public meeting, McGuire was joined by Healdsburg mayor Gary Plass, the Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District general manager Bill Keene and LandPaths executive director Craig Anderson. In addition to offering thanks to the many people who worked tirelessly to bring this project to fruition, speakers gave an overview of the two-decades-in-the-making project and the partnerships that will be fostered in the coming years.
Plans will be formulated to deal with fire suppression, invasive-plant eradication, erosion control, as well as the development of a trails plan and rules governing the park.
Escrow is expected to close in April and LandPaths will take over management and development of the property on behalf of the county and the city. In 2016, ownership will transfer to the City of Healdsburg, though LandPaths is expected to continue to manage the park.
LandPaths also manages Healdsburg Ridge, saving the city a significant amount of money through the leveraging of funds from other sources in addition to the money it receives from the community services department. Community services are funded through the TOT, the transient occupancy tax added to hotel and motel bills.
Healdsburg attorney Ed Wilson shepherded the sale for the anonymous Fitch Mountain ownership group.
“This was the home of the Pomo and the Wappo,” said Wilson. “The land was special to them-the 'center of the world.'
“We're on the verge to acquire the ‘center of the world,’” he continued. He added that he hopes the committees to develop the plans for Fitch Mountain Park stewardship will take “traditional ecological knowledge” into consideration when preparing the plans.
Civic leader Mel Amato said that while he had expressed some financial concerns regarding the purchase, his questions had been answered and he was satisfied the project was on financially sound footing.
While the property will not be open to the general public, LandPaths expects to hold a number of guided work days, and perhaps to deputize monitors to help “keep things safe while providing engagement.”
When the park opens, the trailhead access will be only through the Villa Chanticleer.
For more information about donations (the links will be set up next week) please contact firstname.lastname@example.org