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Skateboarders, gardeners, hikers and coffee lovers in Monte Rio just got great news. An abandoned school site has been approved for conversion into a park that will include a skatepark, community farm, hiking trail and cafe. The $1.4 million project is possible through a $329,000 grant from the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District and $995,000 of former redevelopment funds. The skatepark is assisted by $5,000 from the Tony Hawk Foundation.

Construction of the 2.8-acre park will begin this week and should be finished this year. After a 20-year vacancy, children's laughter (and possibly some crying from the skatepark) will once again be heard at the former school site. Efforts are also planned to restore Schoolhouse and Dutch Bill creeks for salmon and steelhead.

Another boon to outdoor recreation saw the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approve the transfer of 1,100 acres of open space overlooking Santa Rosa on Taylor Mountain to the Regional Parks Department last week. The public grand opening is scheduled for Feb. 23.

This marks the culmination of almost two decades of planning and purchasing land by the Open Space District, which spent about $21 million on the project. Much of the land had been open to the public since 2010 through a permit program run by Santa Rosa nonprofit LandPaths. Trails, including a staging area off Petaluma Hill Road, are planned in the future thanks to a $750,000 state grant. The main access point in the meantime is still off Kawana Terrace in south Santa Rosa.

Now if only the proposed clearcut-to-vineyard site of Preservation Ranch could be turned into protected open space, we'd be all set. Hmm . . .

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