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Petaluma Adobe saved...for now

After successfully raising the needed $70,000 to prevent the closure of the Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park, advocates are scrambling to figure out a long term solution to ensure that our community's oldest and most significant public landmark is preserved for future generations of Petalumans.

A hidden treasure tucked away on the eastern outskirts of the city, the Petaluma Adobe is one of the most significant historic sites in the Bay Area. It is also one of the smallest of California's 278 state parks, both in terms of size, the number of tourists it draws and the amount of revenue it generates.

That made it an easy target last year when the state began looking for ways to close California's multi-billion dollar budget gap, so the Petaluma Adobe became one of 16 North Coast state parks scheduled to be closed on June 30.

The Adobe, a national historic landmark, dates back to 1834 when Mexican General Mariano Vallejo began construction of the main building of his 66,000-acre rancho. It was acquired by the state in 1951 and continues to be a piece of living history where children and adults learn about life in Petaluma in the mid-1800s.

The well-kept grounds and buildings are a destination for thousands of elementary school teachers and students from throughout the Bay Area. Annual events such as Living History Day, Sheep Shearing Day and Fandango are held during the year.

The Petaluma Adobe is the oldest building in Petaluma, built more than 30 years before the city was founded. It would be a shame if it were no longer open for young and old to visit and experience the region's history.

Monies raised by the Sonoma/Petaluma State Historic Parks Association to fund the state's continued management of the park is just the first step towards what could be a much more ambitious and sustainable long range plan to take over operations at the park.

Thanks to legislation passed last year, qualified nonprofit organizations are now able to enter into agreements with the state to operate parks. At nearby Jack London State Park, which was also slated for closure, the Valley of the Moon Natural History Association in April signed a first-of-its-kind agreement to operate the park and keep it open for at least 36 hours per week.

The Jack London Park model is now being seriously evaluated by the Sonoma-Petaluma State Historic Parks Association, which expects to formally consider such a proposal next month.

California's state park system is a treasure, and the Petaluma Adobe is a big part of California's history. Parks belong to all of us and we need to do whatever we can to protect them and ensure their continued public access.

Given the state legislature's inability to do that job, the best chance for the Petaluma Adobe's long term survival may well be in the hands of the local volunteers who prevented it from being shuttered last month. We wish them continued success.


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