Mendcino Land Trust shares staff resources with RCLC

Mendcino Land Trust shares staff resources with RCLC

Photo above by Mendocino Land Trust, Board members from MLT and RCLC meet to tour Mill Bend

Press Release: July 19, 2021
For more information, please contact Amy Wolitzer at amy@mendocinolandtrust.org.

There is good news for the future of conservation along the Mendocino Coast. Thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation of Mendocino County, the Mendocino Land Trust and the Redwood Coast Land Conservancy will be teaming up to maximize use of their staffing to achieve conservation goals. The two organizations have received a nonprofit operations relief grant to help make up for time and staffing lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Redwood Coast Land Conservancy (RCLC) was founded in 1992 to preserve and restore coastal properties from the Russian River in northern Sonoma County to the Navarro River in southern Mendocino County. Until recently, it was almost exclusively a volunteer-run organization. The Mendocino Land Trust was founded in 1976. Based out of Fort Bragg, it has been instrumental in the conservation of more than 20,000 acres throughout Mendocino County and is well-known as a nonprofit leader in establishing and maintaining public access trails.

MLT currently has six staff members, including a conservation manager with a demonstrated talent for writing successful grant proposals to fund environmental restoration and public access projects.

Partnering with other conservation organizations has been a win-win for MLT in the past. “RCLC is working on the most exciting conservation and public access project on the coast,” says MLT executive director Conrad Kramer, referring to RCLC’s acquisition of the Mill Bend property and its plans to restore and improve it for public access. “It will be a win for the environment, a win for outdoor recreation, and a win for the local economy. We are happy to help them with it. Triple wins are what land trusts do.”

The staff-sharing arrangement will serve both organizations as they work to coordinate land acquisition and management activities in the region. This partnership will increase the efficiency and effectiveness of both organizations, as well as support joint organizational capacity building with a cost-effective solution.

Future collaborative conservation projects include preparing a Conceptual Area Protection Plan for the Gualala River Watershed. This plan will assess the extent of endangered and listed species of concern. Completion of the plan will qualify both the RCLC and MLT for state funding to acquire priority properties in the study area, as they become available.

“RCLC is thrilled with the opportunity to collaborate with MLT and we’re grateful for the
generous contribution by the Community Foundation of Mendocino County that made it
possible. Working together we will greatly expand our abilities to preserve our natural coastal landscapes and wildlife habitats for the benefit of our community and future generations,” said Christina Batt, RCLC Board President.
Visit www.rclc.org/mill-bend-conservation to learn more about RCLC’s Mill Bend conservation project.

Photos: Hi-resolution files available upon request – email amy@mendocinolandtrust.org
Hands-on volunteers drive land conservancy projects

Hands-on volunteers drive land conservancy projects

By J. Stephen McLaughlin
news@mendonoma.com

Inspired by Lucy Olmstead's marker, volunteer Loren Adrian crafted and installed similar wooden markers to dignity graves of unknown occupants in the historic cemetery. Steve McLaughlin photo.

It takes more than tax-deductible donations and grant funding to realize the ambitious projects of the Redwood Coast Land Conservancy. On Saturday, the 30-year-old grass-roots conservation organization honored more than 75 hands-on volunteers at an event at its newest acquisition, the 113-acre Mill Bend property on the Gualala River.

President Tina Batt said many of the volunteers show up day after day and week after week to clear trails, remove invasive pampas grass, and maintain all the group’s coastal access projects, including the Gualala Bluff Trail, Cook’s Beach access trail, and Hearn Gulch.

This 120-year-old metal marker for the grave of Lucy Olmstead was found on the rotted wood plank in the background.  Adrian restored it with new wood "headstone." Steve McLaughlin photo.

After months of work by dedicated volunteers, with funds donated by those same volunteers, the cemetery has been cleared of overgrowth; headstones and markers have been restored, and signs have been placed throughout the cemetery with researched information about the lives of the people buried there. A rebuilt fence and restored sign defines the cemetery.

One of the most dramatic achievements so far has been the restoration of the historic Gualala Cemetery on the Mill Bend property, which was nearly invisible a year ago because of the tangled jungle of brush and overgrown trees.

After months of work by dedicated volunteers, with funds donated by those same volunteers, the cemetery has been cleared of overgrowth; headstones and markers have been restored, and signs have been placed throughout the cemetery with researched information about the lives of the people buried there. A rebuilt fence and restored sign defines the cemetery.

Mill Bend project manager Dave Shpak led volunteers on a tour of some of the trails and restoration in progress.  Steve McLaughlin photo.

Batt told the ICO that the cemetery has had more people “visiting for the right reasons,” that is, respectful historical interest.

During tours of the Mill Bend site, project manager Dave Shpak explained some of the environmental choices the organization must consider as it undertakes restoration and plan access improvements.

More information on RCLC and its projects is available at www.rclc.org.

New 113-acre preserve on Sonoma-Mendocino line aims to bolster Gualala River recovery

New 113-acre preserve on Sonoma-Mendocino line aims to bolster Gualala River recovery

By Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT, March 29, 2021

Dave Shpak, Mill Bend project manager, right, and John Walton, vice president of the Redwood Coast Land Conservancy board, stand on a bluff overlooking the mouth of the Gualala River and the 113-acre Mill Bend Preserve recently acquired by the group on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. (Photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

(Excerpt reprint courtesy of The Press Democrat)

Standing above the Gualala River, his gaze toward the opposite bank and a sharp hairpin turn in the river known as Mill Bend, Dave Shpak recounted more than a century of environmental abuses there as somberly if they were still taking place.
In a way, they are.

Though the last of three industrial-scale lumber mills — two right at the edge of the river and a third, up the hill — ceased operations in 1963, the estuary has only just begun recovering from decades of degradation that altered the river bed, diminished the aquatic habitat and denuded the surrounding embankments of native plants to make room for sawing logs.

But Shpak and the Redwood Coast Land Conservancy, for which he started working this past winter, are now in charge of 113 acres of land along 1.5 miles of river just up from its mouth, a property now known as Mill Bend Preserve. They’re currently in the throes of long-term planning that puts the health of the landscape and the life it supports above all else.

Continued at the Press Democrat link here.

RCLC finalizes purchase of Mill Bend

RCLC finalizes purchase of Mill Bend

Published by the Independent Coast Observer, February 4, 2021

Photo by Gail Jackson

The Redwood Coast Land Conservancy (RCLC) announced the close of escrow on the Mill Bend properties last Friday, January 29, completing the purchase of the 113-acre site at the mouth of the Gualala River.

RCLC, the local land trust based in Gualala, will now take ownership of Mill Bend and determine how best to preserve and restore the scenic and environmentally sensitive river property while providing public access to the community. “Completing this purchase is a huge milestone for us,” said RCLC President Christina Batt, “and is the result of an amazing three-year community effort to acquire Mill Bend to make sure it will be protected forever.”

“RCLC is so grateful for all the hard work that went into completing the Mill Bend acquisition,” she added. “Kathleen (and Lloyd) Chasey let the effort from the very start with the support of Cindy Kennedy and Friends of Gualala River. Their collective leadership made this critical conservation project a reality.”

Batt also thanked the Allemall Foundation, state and federal grant funders, “the many local residents who contributed funds and volunteered their time, and the many organizations who partnered with us to make this purchase happen.”

RCLC purchased the land from the Allemall Foundation, the interim conservation buyer who stepped forward to hold the property when it was put on the market in 2017 by Gualala Redwoods, Inc. so RCLC could line up funds to make the purchase.

As reported in the Jan. 8 issue of the ICO, Dave Shpak has been hired by RCLC as the Mill Bend Project Manager. He will be working with planning consultants, the Mill Bend Technical Advisory Committee and other volunteers to develop a series of plans ranging from the location of trails and parking to the restoration of the river’s salmonid population.

Sometime in the late spring, RCLC plans to present another in the series of public forums the organization has periodically held, Batt said, to provide updates and to gather ongoing community input. The results of a survey taken on the interests and preferences of the local community in September are available on the RCLC website, www.rclc.org.

Although state and federal grants provide funding for major Mill Bend projects, RCLC relies on local contributions to support its ongoing stewardship of Mill Bend, Cooks Beach, the Gualala Bluff Trail, Hearn Gulch Preserve and other projects. RCLC is in the midst of its annual campaign to raise funds to support that work. More than $65,000 has been raised toward the 2021 goal of $85,000, but $20,000 is still needed to support RCLC’s work in the coming year. Contributions can be sent to RCLC at P.O. Box 1511, Gualala, CA. 95445 or made online at www.rclc.org.

Founded in 1992, RCLC is a local, volunteer-run land trust based in Gualala, California. In partnership with the California State Coastal Conservancy and other funders, RCLC has set aside and protected multiple scenic areas along the southern Mendocino Coast for public access and habitat protection. RCLC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization which acquires land or conservation easements in order to preserve, protect, and restore natural areas for recreation, education, and research. Funding comes from public and private grants, donations from the public, and nonprofit and business partners.

Visit www.rclc.org to learn more or to make a donation. Redwood Coast Land Conservancy can be contacted at P.O. Box 1511, Gualala, CA. 95445.

RCLC hires Dave Shpak as Mill Bend project manager

RCLC hires Dave Shpak as Mill Bend project manager

By J. Stephen McLaughlin
news@mendonoma.com
Photo by Craig Tooley

The Redwood Coast Land Conservancy announced this week it has hired Dave Shpak of Gualala to be its first paid staffer to manage the next phases of its Mill Bend project. Shpak will come on board Dec. 7 to take over from Kathleen Chasey, who has volunteered with the project since it first started about three years ago.

Community donations, along with grants, raised $2.7 million to purchase the 113-acre parcel, which includes blufftop and riverside lands just south of downtown Gualala.

Tina Batt, president of the nonprofit RCLC, said the cost of hiring a part-time project manager was included in a state grant. Shpak will coordinate with multiple agencies to formulate a plan and develop additional grant funding for trails and habitat restoration.

Shpak is a registered member of American Institute of Certified Planners, in a 33-year career in planning and project management. His most recent position was project manager for WSP USA – California High-Speed Rail Delivery Partner. He has also been park development manager for the City of West Sacramento.

He and his wife, Susan Wolbarst (who is a reporter for the Independent Coast Observer), have been part-time residents of Gualala for 11 years, becoming fulltime about a year ago. Their son, Zach Shpak, is a nurse at Redwood Coast Medical Services in Gualala.

Gate to protect river from motor vehicle damage

Gate to protect river from motor vehicle damage

By J. Stephen McLaughlin
news@mendonoma.com

The Redwood Coast Land Conservancy will soon install a gate to protect the Gualala River from damage by motor vehicles, vice president John Walton told the ICO this week. He said the local nonprofit is applying for an emergency coastal permit for the installation on land it recently acquired after a $2.7 million fundraising drive.

The gate, which will block motor vehicle access only, should not impede pedestrians (even those carrying kayaks) from enjoying the lower Mill Bend property and its river beach, he said. Walton emphasized that the public is welcome to walk into and through the property, which is just south of downtown Gualala.

Tire ruts and other damage from trucks driving in the river bed have plagued the Gualala River for years. Wildlife experts say such impacts damage the river habitat for fish and the invertebrates on which they feed.

Walton said the lower Mill Bend has no restroom or other facilities, so it is inappropriate for overnight camping. In the past, trucks and campers have become mired in the soft sand and mud, he said.

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