Editor, Index-Tribune:

The Sonoma City Council recently commissioned a biological assessment to inform their decision on whether to pursue permitting leashed dogs in the Montini Preserve. The Sonoma Overlook Trail has had a dog-free policy since its inception, as does the adjacent Sonoma State Historic Park, Mountain Cemetery and Field of Dreams. We are concerned that by allowing dogs in the Montini Preserve, different sets of rules on contiguous trails will cause confusion and provide opportunity to diminish the land use values we support on our trail.

The assessment, available on the city website, describes in detail the amazing wildlife, habitat and rare plants we have right here in our back yard. The study also describes in detail how the presence of leashed, as well as unleashed, dogs, the scent left long after they have gone, and the cumulative effects are likely to have serious negative effects on the wildlife and the habitat of the preserve.

In response to the study, the city is proposing putting in place rules to help protect natural resources, such as leash rules and dog waste disposal rules. But these are difficult to enforce and, at best, address only some of the identified concerns. As the study concludes, permitting dogs is still likely to negatively affect the preserve.

Originally, pets were to be prohibited in the preserve and an access trail was built through the Vallejo Home State Historic Park. If dogs are permitted, an expensive, alternative western access route will need to be developed from Fifth Street West, and across the environmentally-sensitive open wetland/pasture to avoid State Parks land.

The Sonoma Overlook Trail Stewards support the vision and current Management Plan of the preserve, where protection of natural resources is primary. Therefore, we support dog-free trails for the Montini Preserve.

Joanna Kemper, chair

Sonoma Overlook Stewards