Past & Present


Sonoma Garden Park is a city-owned, 6.1-acre community park and working model of sustainable agriculture located in the town of Sonoma.

A project of Sonoma Ecology Center, Sonoma Garden Park provides a beautiful, natural environment with educational and recreational opportunities for both children and adults.

The property was a gift from beloved local schoolteacher and gardener Pauline Bond, who bequeathed her land in 1977 to the City of Sonoma with the agreement that it remain a public park. In 1993, Sonoma Ecology Center took over operation of the park on the city’s behalf, and began transforming the property from a bare lot to its current lush grounds of orchards, gardens and public gathering places.

Sonoma Garden Park has changed a great deal over the years. Here are some key milestones:

1994: The Straw Bale Barn

Bruce Maxwell, a Sonoma Ecology Center volunteer, designed and supervised construction of the Straw Bale Barn. Using almost entirely donated materials (including the roof trusses which were provided by All Truss, a local truss maker), the barn was built over the course of numerous volunteer workdays covering different phases: foundation pouring, straw bale wall installation, roof installation, stucco application, and clay floor installation. Everything in the barn is original except the clay floor, which was replaced around 2012. The redwood doors and siding were salvaged from the Dolcini family barn, once located where Adele Harrison Middle School now stands.

2007-09: Children’s Discovery Trail

This project was funded by Whitney and Janet Evans, local philanthropists who wanted to bring some of the joy of gardens they shared with their children to the people of Sonoma. The Children’s Discovery Trail currently consists of three locations and interactive panels meant to inspire and educate children about butterflies, birds and bees.

2012: The Nursery

An initial shade structure at the Garden Park was designed by longtime Sonoma Ecology Center Restoration Project Manager Mark Newhouser and built out of salvaged decking with volunteer labor in 2008. Soon after that we began work on a state-of-the-art greenhouse, built mostly by volunteers over three years and finished in 2012. The Sonoma Native Plant Nursery, which now grows most of the plants for Sonoma Ecology Center’s restoration work, was funded by numerous sources, including Sonoma Rotary, Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, MGP, nursery funds, Americorps labor, Audiss Electric, Boden Plumbing, Berger Concrete, Impact 100, and the City of Sonoma.

2012: Conservation Easement

A Conservation Easement, established through Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, protects the land and provides exclusions from certain types of development on the land, in perpetuity. Land must be maintained as publicly-accessible open space for recreation, agriculture, and habitat conservation purposes. The easement established eligibility for Sonoma Garden Park to receive funding through the District’s matching grant program, and has funded two phases of infrastructure development to date. Projects in those grants included completion of an ADA pathway network, new signs, drinking water fountains, oak woodland restoration, and a native plant nursery garden.

2015: ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Pathway

The City of Sonoma funded a pathway system in 2007. A more permanent set of pathways, incorporating the old pathway as a foundation, was completed with funding by Ag+Open Space district’s matching grant program. These ADA pathways mean our park is a place everyone can enjoy.

2017: Low Impact Design (LID) features and Park Upgrades

Sonoma County Water Agency funded a project to provide a demonstration of LID infrastructure. These design features manage storm water runoff so that it stays on the land, and infiltrates and recharges groundwater. Water also filters through vegetation and gravel to remove sediment and chemical pollutants before it enters streams and other waterbodies. Manageed storm water can also be stored and utilized for landscape uses. The project is intended to inspire, so that others might adopt these practices as simple, economical features that landowners can build or easily retrofit themselves.

2019 And Beyond:

Today, Sonoma Garden Park shows the fruits of our labor in every sense. Beloved features at the Garden Park include the seasonal Saturday Harvest Market, native plant nursery, community garden plots, community workshops, and the many longstanding youth education activities such as school field trips, EnviroLeaders and Summer Science Camps.

Sonoma Ecology Center is also working on the future of Sonoma Garden Park, and is currently working with the City of Sonoma and community to update its Master Plan Update to bring improvements to the park, including inclusion of the “Grandmother Tree” and the old homestead area, an education office and classroom, improved children’s play areas, and public restrooms.

See below for a great video on our educational programs at Sonoma Garden Park — plus a visit to the Garden Park in 2016 by legendary Bay Area traveler Doug McConnell.