Success Stories

Parks Foundation helps with initial funding for Doran Visitor Center

In response to demonstrated public interest in bringing an interpretive visitor center to Doran Beach, Regional Parks opened the Doran Visitor Center in August 2017. The visitor center is located in a trailered cabin parked near the boardwalk.

In coordination with the Parks Foundation, Doran Park rangers and staff developed a variety of interactive displays that interpret the diverse habitats found at Doran: the sand dunes, ocean, wetlands and intertidal zone.  The exhibits include the preserved skeleton of a sea lion, a children’s discovery activities and touch table, and large interpretive panelscreated by a local artist illustrating the habitats of Doran Regional Park and the Sonoma Coast.

Doran Regional Park is a destination for over 750,000 visitors each year.  The long-awaited Doran visitor center provides an enhanced experience for park goers to learn about the local flora and fauna of the area, purchase park memorabilia, and ask questions of Regional Parks’ trained volunteers at the center.


Just say “YES-Coast!”
Parks Foundation helps secure funding for innovative youth coastal excursions

Initiated in summer 2017, Sonoma County Regional Parks’ unique YES-Coast (Youth Exploring Sonoma Coast) program connects underserved youth between the ages of 13-18 to their coastline by providing a year of outings interweaving themes of coastal and marine ecology, local history, and the rich culture that exists in Sonoma County.

The program is ambitious, with complex logistics, enthusiastic, high energy participants, and a broad curriculum — and its first year was a resounding success! Serving 125 youth from the cities and suburban neighborhoods of central and east Sonoma County, in most cases YES-Coast facilitates the first visit to the California coast for the majority of the participating teens.

Educational, recreational, stewardship and career exploration activities along the entire stretch of the county’s coastline include five day outings and two 3-day/2-night camping trips, and a special community celebration honoring the youth. Youth will capture their experiences and share their stories through art projects, including Photo Voice, culminating in an exhibit at the Gualala Arts Center and one-month travelling exhibit in local libraries.

The Parks Foundation is thrilled to have assisted in securing more than $70,000 in funding to support this high quality outdoor experience for our local teens. In addition, a Parks Foundation grant is funding the traveling PhotoVoice exhibit. 


Community comes together to build Gary Maresh Memorial Shade Structure at Ragle 

Ragle Dog Park ramada with Kristine, Larry and Jason

Regional Parks staff Larry, Kristine and Jason led the construction of this beautiful new shade structure at the Ragle Ranch dog park. It was made possible by donations in memory of Gary Maresh, a devoted member of the Sebastopol community and frequent visitor to the dog park.


When Gary Maresh passed away in 2015, his family had an idea for a very specific, personal memorial in his honor. Gary was an early supporter of the Ragle Ranch dog park and one its most frequent visitors with his beloved dogs, Rudy and Maize. Sonoma County Regional Parks, the Parks Foundation, and the generosity of dozens of donors, including the Sebastopol Fire Department, combined to bring the Gary Maresh shade structure from vision to reality. It is a fantastic gift to the community — a much needed improvement which is aesthetically pleasing and provides important sun protection for dog park visitors.







Beautiful Kenwood Plaza Gazebo Honors Bobby Musser-Kirby

Contractors build the roof of the Kenwood Plaza gazebo, spring 2014gazebo

The Parks Foundation is pleased to have helped sponsor a beautiful new gazebo at Kenwood Plaza Park. The gazebo, dedicated in fall 2014, was built in memory of Bobby Musser-Kirby, who died in a tragic car accident at the age of five.

The groundswell of support for this project from the Kenwood community was overwhelming. Special thanks goes to Don MacNair, the landscape architect who designed the gazebo and spent countless hours of his own time managing the project.

Local contractors, businesses and volunteers were exceptionally generous in donating materials, services and time. The Parks Foundation thanks the following individuals who contributed to the latest phase of the project: Rick Smandra and Kenwood Fence Company, Gary Doty of Strokes n Kotes, local farmers Jim Geib and Keith Kunde, Mark Bunte of Sonoma Valley Landscape, Patrick Williams of Aaction Rents, Paul Kruzic (Kruzic Woodworking), Mike Ward of Marble World, Jim Strand of In sTone, and Susie and Ed Grossi from Sweet Lane Wholesale Nursery.

The following thoughtful individuals have volunteered their time: Eleanor Trent, Ian MacNair and Jim Fletcher. The Rotary Club of Glen Ellen-Kenwood sent volunteers Tim Holmes, John Meserve, Dave Chappel and Barney Watkins to dig trenches, and Jeff Tyler of Palooza Gastropub donated lunch for one of the workdays.

Finally, Alec and Ann Peters, publishers of the Kenwood Press, have followed this project from the beginning and helped to keep the community informed and involved. Thank you to everyone who contributed to making the new Kenwood gazebo a reality!

Protective Wind Wall Shelters Gualala Visitors

Windwall and Gillett Bechtel

Mr. Gillett Bechtel, father of Regional Parks Ranger Sue Bechtel, at the Gualala Regional Park Visitor Center. Behind Gillett is the newly constructed glass wind wall for which memorial plaques are available.

Construction of a protective glass “wind wall” at the Gualala Point Park Visitor Center patio was completed in the spring of 2014. The wind wall creates an outdoor space that can accommodate up to 50 people while shielding visitors from uncomfortable gusts.

With the wind wall in place, the Visitor Center patio has become a lovely venue to host a casual picnic, family get together, birthday celebration, or even a small wedding or reception. This photo shows Gillett Bechtel, father of Regional Parks Ranger Sue Bechtel, visiting the recently completed wind wall. Mr. Bechtel and his family have donated a plaque to honor his wife, Betty Jean Bechtel, a long-time park volunteer who passed away in 2013.

Commemorative plaques continue to be accepted at the wind wall. Donors who contribute $500 or more can have a plaque installed on the structure. Please contact the Parks Foundation if you are interested in a plaque.