by Kendall Webster
Two weeks ago, it was a big week at Sonoma Land Trust — we closed on the transfer of Tolay Creek Ranch to Sonoma County Regional Parks! Our very public and publicized gift of the 1,665-acre Tolay Creek Ranch doubled the size of Tolay Lake Regional Park, creating the largest regional park in Sonoma County.
As someone new to the world of land trusts, I wasn’t aware of the flurry of activity and paperwork that surrounds the closing of a land acquisition deal. The Tolay Creek Ranch transfer was especially complex because we needed to develop agreements with Regional Parks permitting us to continue our restoration work in Tolay Creek. There were at least nine documents associated with the transfer, the language of which had to be mutually agreed upon by the Land Trust and Regional Parks. Moreover, we were up against a March 5 deadline, so the two weeks prior were dominated by an intense back-and-forth bustle of edited and re-edited documents raising last-minute questions and issues that had to be resolved as soon as possible.
Wendy Eliot, our conservation director, likens closing land transaction deals to putting on an elaborate meal with multiple dishes. The ingredients for the dishes must be on hand from different sources (the pantry, the grocery store, the garden — oops, you forgot to get Worcestershire sauce from the grocery store, so you have to make a second trip) and at various intervals (marinate the meat the night before, make the pies, assemble the salad, cook the meat, blanch the green beans and make sure each of your guests has a drink in hand). In the end, everything needs to be ready all at once to feed the guests sitting around your table.
The same is true in a land transaction closing. There’s a flurry of document preparation and signature gathering. Signatures can’t be gathered until the documents are final, but sometimes getting those final documents is tricky because comments must be collected from various parties. In the end, all the effort culminates in one glorious day when everything has been signed and a call comes in from the title company to tell you that “we are on record” — an extraordinarily understated way to say that another peerless Sonoma County landscape is now protected forever.
The Tolay Creek Ranch closing required many ingredients from a lot of different people — and its timing was often tricky. But that Friday evening, we all went home happy because we had worked together to successfully preserve the land.
Kendall Webster is Sonoma Land Trust's land acquisition project manager.
Sonoma Land Trust is a local nonprofit based in Santa Rosa, CA, that conserves scenic, natural, agricultural and open lands in Sonoma County for the benefit of the community and future generations. This blog focuses on SLT's stewardship team, whose members do hands-on work to directly protect, restore, and safeguard the land for generations to come.