Trail in oak woodland cleared of debris

About the Sonoma Developmental Center

Meadow Established in 1891, the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) occupies a cherished spot in the Sonoma Valley. Comprising approximately 180 acres of developed campus and 765 acres of natural areas, SDC provided a serene and therapeutic setting for individuals with developmental disabilities. Its extensive trail system and essential water infrastructure, including two reservoirs and a treatment plant, enhanced its significance.

For over a century, SDC offered specialized care, earning national recognition as a healing community. As the valley's primary employer, it fostered deep connections with neighboring communities until its closure in 2018. Despite this, SDC's legacy persists, leaving an enduring mark on the region's history.

On January 1, 2024, the transfer of approximately 750 acres of open space to California State Parks was finalized, marking the largest land acquisition in the Sonoma Valley since 2010. This new addition to State Parks ensures protection under their mission, with management plans already underway to safeguard and enhance the property.


Open Space Area

California State Parks is proud to now be managing the open space. Together with our partner organizations we will be continuing and improving public access and recreational opportunities. The open space is vital to the environment of the Sonoma Valley and will eventually be incorporated into Jack London State Historic Park through a public General Plan process. 

Open Space Areas- The Open Space Areas were officially transferred to California State Parks in January 2024.

Core Campus - The main area of buildings seen from Arnold Dr, these locations will be part of the future development of the area providing housing and a shopping area. 

Camp Via - The location of the former summer camp, this location is currently going through the transfer process to California State Parks. 

Lakes - Both lakes on the property will remain with the local water district. These locations are valued drinking sources for residents and future development.

CalFire - As part of the transfer, CalFire will receive a portion of the southeast property for a future new facility.

Map of land that has been transferred to California State Parks


 View the Sonoma Developmental Center Transfer of Jurisdiction Map

What is going to change?

Initially, the property and how everyone accesses it will not change. People will still be able to hike, bike, ride horses, and enjoy the land they have for many years. But new rules will be taking effect and here is what you need to know. The Department of Parks and Recreation has established rules and regulations to protect park areas for the enjoyment of future generations as well as for the convenience and safety of park visitors. To ensure your visit is a pleasant one, please observe the following:

NATURAL SCENERY, PLANTS, AND ANIMAL LIFE are the principal attractions of most state parks. They are integral parts of the ecosystem and natural community. As such they are protected by Federal, State, and Park laws. Disturbance or destruction of these resources is strictly forbidden.

LOADED FIREARMS AND HUNTING are not allowed in units of the State Parks System. Possession of loaded firearms or air rifles is prohibited. Exceptions are for hunting in recreation areas that have been designated by the State Park and Recreation Commission.

FISHING/SWIMMING is prohibited in both lakes on the property. These locations are valuable water resources for residents. 

DEAD AND DOWN WOOD is part of the natural condition. Decayed vegetation forms humus and assists the growth of trees and other plants. For this reason, the gathering of down wood is prohibited. Fuel is sold in the parks for your convenience. (When considered a hazard, down wood is removed by park personnel.)

DOGS must be on a tended leash no more than 6 feet or confined in an enclosed vehicle. Dogs, other than those that assist the permanently disabled, are prohibited on all trails and wherever posted. Dogs are only allowed on paved roads within the open space. Please refer to the trail map. Visitors with dogs that are vicious, dangerous, noisy, or disturbing animals will be ejected from the park.

REFUSE, including garbage, cigarettes, paper boxes, bottles, ashes, and other rubbish, shall be placed only in designated receptacles. Your pleasure and pride in your parks will be enhanced when they are kept clean.

SMOKING: Smoking is not permitted in State Parks, except on paved roadways or parking facilities.  On January 1, 2020, the law associated with Senate Bill 8 went into effect.  As of that date, under Public Resources Code 5008.10 states that  A person shall not smoke on a state beach or in a unit of the state park system. This prohibition does not apply to paved roadways or parking facilities of a state beach or unit of the state park system.”

PLEASE clean up after yourself so that others may enjoy the beauty.

The Future

The future planning of the property is a process that is of the highest priority for the department and local Bay Area District staff. A 5-phase plan has been worked out:

Sonoma Developmental Property Phase Plan by California State Parks

Get Involved



Stay in the loop for upcoming events, meetings, and planning for the SDC. Send us an email to be added to the list. 


Other Resources about SDC

Permit Sonoma- also known as the Permit and Resource Management Department (PRMD), is Sonoma County's consolidated land use planning and development permitting agency. Virtually any land development or construction in the unincorporated area of Sonoma County (outside the city limits of the nine cities) is reviewed, permitted, and inspected by Permit Sonoma.