On a recent sunny afternoon, Foundation Executive Director Melissa Kelley joined Michele Torr McDonell and her brother Michael Torr at Monte Rio’s Creekside Park to talk about their donation of property to the Parks Foundation. Michael and Michele – along with their younger brother Brian – enjoy a family legacy in Monte Rio that dates back to the early 1900s, and they are deeply connected to the community.
Their donation of a one-acre parcel comes on the heels of the discounted sale of 515 acres to Sonoma County Regional Parks – property that will provide a key linkage between Monte Rio and Occidental and host a future trail along Dutch Bill Creek. “Regional Parks and the Parks Foundation were such a pleasure to work with,” Michele said. “Anyone who has dealt with property transfers knows how arduous and challenging it can be, but this was even fun!”
When asked what prompted the recent divestment of these properties, Michael said, “Let me tell you a story.”
My grandfather was like a surrogate dad to George Cassini, a well known West County resident who lost his father at a young age. One day George came to my grandfather and said he had a dilemma. A man wanted to buy his land.
“Well,” Grandfather asked, “how much is he offering?”
George revealed the proposed purchase price.
“That’s a very fair price, George,” said Grandfather. “Do you want to sell the property?”
“Yes,” George answered, “I do.”
Grandfather continued, “Then what’s the dilemma?”
“Well,” George answered, “if I sell the land, then I won’t own it anymore!”
That, said Michael, was the dilemma he faced with the parcels in Monte Rio. The family wanted to reduce the number of properties they owned, but the land also was filled with memories that they didn’t want to lose.
Michele chimed in: “Turning our land into parkland was a win for us and for the community. This way, we can continue to visit the places that are so meaningful to us. In addition, we still have many friends in the area. They’re so excited by the prospect of having a Regional Park they can walk to. Now people will be able to hike it and enjoy it as much as we did!”
The Parks Foundation can accept select gifts of property to be used for parkland or to be sold to support parks. In the example of the McDonell-Torr property, Regional Parks already had identified the land as a desirable addition to a future Monte Rio regional park.
Most properties are more like the bequest of a Sebastopol farm house that the Parks Foundation received several years ago. The land was not a good fit to become a park, but the donor had indicated the property could be sold to benefit Regional Parks. Funds from this sale are supporting upcoming improvements to the West County Trail.
To discuss prospective land donations, please contact Parks Foundation Executive Director Melissa Kelley.