HISTORY OF THE GRATON GREEN GROUP AND PREVIOUS GRATON PARKS
Previous Parks in Graton
When Graton was founded in 1905, the first park was a 40-acre grove called Piney Woods located at Graton Road and what is now Hwy 116. People from other cities rode the new electric passenger trains into Graton and walked up the hill with their picnic baskets to spend the day in Piney Woods.
In 1932, passenger trains ended and the park became Handy’s Grove, which operated until the 1950s. Today, homes and the Dutton-Goldfield and Red Car Winery tasting rooms fill the site.
In 1973, a group of parents formed a corporation and began fund raising to buy land on Donald Street across from the Pacific Christian Academy, which became Chapin Park. In 1987, they donated the land to Oak Grove School.
During the 2000’s, the community worked with Orrin Thiessen who owned the land behind Underwood’s Bistro to incorporate a park in his planned development there. Just before the recession that started in 2007, Mr. Thiessen sold the land. The new owners allowed a community garden to be planted on the land until 2015 when Mr Thiessen purchased it again, with plans for a housing development along the alleyway.
In July 2015, the Graton Green Group signed a purchase agreement with Thiessen for .5 acres of the 1.4 acre parcel to be used as a community park and garden.
History of the Graton Green Group
The Graton Green Group (GGG), which began as a conversation around a kitchen table in 2007, became incorporated in 2010 as a nonprofit organization with the sole mission to create a park in Graton. For several years, the GGG focused on purchasing the old firehouse site at Graton Road, but was unsuccessful in persuading the Graton Fire Protection District Board of Directors to sell them the land and old building.
When the property behind Underwood’s went on the market again in early 2015, Mr. Orrin Thiessen was the successful bidder against several developers from other areas. He immediately reached out to the GGG to offer them land to build a park on the southern half of the property which includes a “critch.” (The county designates the waterway as a drainage ditch, but local residents think of it as a creek – therefore, it’s affectionately referred to as the Graton Critch.)
The GGG started fund raising immediately for the purchase of the land. From previous fund-raising, they had in their coffers $16,000. By the end of 2015, the group had raised $40,000, and as of July 2016 the GGG is just $20,000 away from the needed purchase amount. In March, the group applied for a matching fund grant of $100,000 from Sonoma County Open Space and Agricultural Preservation District for purchase and minimal development.