Originally a hunting territory for Native Americans, the area over which Sonoma Overlook now passes has served many other purposes. Arrowheads found in the area indicate the presence of the first permanent residents, members of the Muchi tribe, a sub-branch of the Coastal Miwok. While living on the former Sonoma Mission site, these Native Americans used the hillsides for hunting. By the mid-nineteenth century, the property had become part of the estate of General Mariano G. Vallejo, who gave the sloping portion of what was then called Battery Hill to the Pueblo of Sonoma for use a s community cemetery, which is still in use today.
In the 1890s, Solomon Schocken purchased the upper, rockier portion of the hill to the east of Sonoma Overlook Trail and established a successful stone quarry. He provided stone used in the construction of several Sonoma buildings and in the rebuilding of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake. From the basalt that was plentiful at the site, Schocken also fashioned cobblestones and paving block used on the streets throughout the Bay Area. By the early 1920s, however, the popularity of the automobile had so decreased the demand for those materials that the quarry was closed. In the years that followed, the abandoned hillside came to serve as a garbage dump, but was closed to that used in the 1950s. The city-owned property remained undeveloped, even somewhat neglected, for decades.
In the 1990s, two groups became interested in the area: those who wanted to preserve the property and those who wanted to develop it. The differing views on its best use aroused community interest. A vote of citizenry strongly rejected any commercial development and participation in subsequent community forums registered popular support for limited access to the property. The Sonoma Ecology Center and the Community Services and Environment Commission became involved. Thanks to their efforts, the Sonoma Overlook Trail became a reality. Grants from the State of California Solid Waste Management Board, the U.S. Environmental Protect Agency and the City of Sonoma funded the removal of debris from the dump, as well as restoration of the site.
The trail itself was financed by individuals, civic groups and local businesses and built largely by volunteers. Today, a hike on the trail offers an opportunity for Sonomans and visitors alike to experience the area and enjoy views comparable to those of the original inhabitants and early settlers of Sonoma Valley.
1996 Discussions with Mayor Dick Dorf/City Council
1997 Environmental Advisory Commission Efforts
1998 Partnership with Sonoma Ecology Center
Formation of Trails Task Force
1999 Planning/Garnering Community Support/Meetings with Officials
Rosewood Hotel Project turned down by Sonoma voters in special election (1999)
2001 Groundbreaking; Trail Construction: Beginning of Dump Removal
2002 First Docent Class
Completion of Dump Removal
2003 Continuing Maintenance
Second Docent Class
Construction of final link between lower and upper trail