Tolay Park on track to open by end of year

Work through the fall will add improvements and finalize the environmental report for the Petaluma-area park.|

Work is underway both at Tolay Lake Regional Park and in Sonoma County Parks planning offices to open by year’s end what will become the county’s largest public park on the outskirts of Petaluma.

Workers will be paving the park’s access road and adding improvements through the fall as park planners finalize the environmental report for Tolay, a 3,426-acre park that has been planned since 2005. Currently, public access is on a limited basis to those who have obtained special permits, and during the Tolay Fall Festival.

Supervisor David Rabbitt said he hopes this year’s Fall Festival can also serve as the opening ceremony for the park.

“I really pushed parks last year and said it’s got to be open this year,” he said. “The Fall Festival, I’m optimistic we can make that.”

While the park may open for complete public access, it may not include many amenities, said Karen Davis-Brown, a county park planner working on Tolay. A sales tax measure that would have provided a dedicated funding source for county parks failed at the ballot last November, meaning many of the improvements at Tolay may have to wait until after opening day.

“We’re working hard to get the park open by the end of the year,” Davis-Brown said. “Many improvements will have to come next year. Most of our focus is on CEQA,” the California Environmental Quality Act.

Rabbitt said Tolay has been one of the toughest park projects the county has undertaken, beset for many years by environmental challenges, state permitting, Native American sensitivities and a opposition from neighbors.

Parks officials have discussed another attempt next year at passing a tax measure for parks, according to Carol Eber, chair of the Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation board.

(Contact Matt Brown at

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