by Rachel Norton, Executive Director
One of the things I consistently love about my job is that I get paid to visit parks. On most of my visits, the mood is joyful – I’m usually accompanied by staff or dedicated volunteers who are excited to show off their park and talk about why it is so special.
But on my recent trip to Trione-Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa, the mood was more somber. Trione-Annadel, along with Sugarloaf Ridge and Robert Louis Stevenson State Parks, was squarely in the burn zone of the devastating fires that hit Sonoma and Napa counties in October. While Sugarloaf has recently re-opened, half of Trione-Annadel remains closed because of unsafe conditions related to fire damage. And because the California State Parks Foundation is always standing by to help our partners in the Department of Parks and Recreation, I asked to see the fire’s effects up close so that we could better understand how to help. I’m very grateful to Vince Anibale, Acting Superintendent of the Bay Area District and Supervising Ranger Neill Fogarty for spending the better part of a day in the park with me.
Trione-Annadel is a spectacular place, criss-crossed with hiking and biking trails that are framed by lovely old oaks and beautiful manzanita. The Trione family are well-known winemakers in Santa Rosa and Sonoma County, and the park was renamed Trione-Annadel after Henry Trione, a former CSPF Board chair and tireless advocate for parks. As we drove into the park, I was surprised at how lush it seemed. Just two months after the fires, December rains had encouraged new green grasses to sprout.
Driving further into the burn zone, however, I saw more blackened ground and trees. The good news, Vince and Neill told me, is that many of the oak trees were scorched but not killed by the wind-whipped blaze. This is fantastic news, because Trione-Annadel is regarded as a particularly unspoiled example of northern oak woodlands. Indeed, you could see that dry brush and fuel closer to the ground had burned completely away while sparing the sturdier trees.
It was obvious that the park is a cherished place for residents. Almost everywhere we went in the park, hikers and riders stopped the official state parks truck we were riding in to ask when the closed trails would reopen. In conversation after conversation, I heard “I love this place!” and “I come here all the time.”
For Henry Trione, preserving Trione-Annadel State Park and saving it from development was a gift he gave to the future. The park users I met are justifiably grateful for that gift, and I think after witnessing the terrible losses from the fires, the park is a great reminder of the value of coming together and protecting something that is bigger than ourselves.
At our Earth Day Restoration and Cleanup, on April 21, I’m very proud that Trione-Annadel will be one of 40 parks where volunteers will have an opportunity to do just that – preserve and protect our state parks. And we’ve let Vince and Neill our friends at the Department of Parks and Recreation know that CSPF will continue to do whatever we can to support them and the cherished spaces they steward. I also plan to visit Trione-Annadel again this spring – Neill says the post-burn wildflowers will be spectacular.