In late July, Sonoma (CA) County officials announced that the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria were willing to foot $500,000 of a projected $800,000 bill to open Tolay Lake Regional Park to the public. The tribe’s requirement that it have an advisory role in the park’s development has proven controversial due to its desire to build a casino in Rohmert Park.
An article published on Petaluma360.com quoted the Tolay Park proposal as designating the tribe a “cooperating agency,” meaning that the county “will use the expertise and input of the Graton Tribe to the maximum extent possible, but the County is the lead agency for this project.” Regional Parks director Caryl Hart said that working with the Tribe “would be a great collaboration,” and added that any plans for Tolay are “unconnected to anything else they’re doing in the county.”
In a later article published on Petaluma360.com, County Board Supervisor David Rabbit was quoted as saying “I was hesitant at first, but I’ve found that it isn’t related in any way to the casino development. This is a totally separate project … The land is the spiritual center for the tribe, and we would have turned to it, anyway, to help with the design and interpretive nature of the park.”
The public, though, remain unconvinced, or so says a poll taken by the Pulse of Petaluma blog. Fifty-three of 86 people polled, or 61.6%, said they felt the Tribe should not “be allowed to have an advisory role in the development of the park.”
The blog also solicited comments; one respondent, clearly against the project, wrote: “As the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria is a entity created to provide a shroud under which Station Casinos can have their way with our community, I don’t feel they should be given any opportunity to validate that position.”
A commenter in favor of the plan wrote: “Tolay Lake is a very sacred place for the Native Americans. When it was taken away and the lake drained during General Vallejo’s time, a significant healing spot was lost for the western tribes. It would be wonderful to have this area restored and most certainly, the tribe should have an advisory role in the development of the park.”
The County Board of Supervisors was to vote on the proposal at its August 9 meeting; minutes of the meeting have yet to be posted on the board’s official website.