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.

Mill Bend campaign reaches goal

Mill Bend campaign reaches goal

By Chris McManus
news@mendonoma.com

With an outstanding response from the local community, Redwood Coast Land Conservancy announced this week that it has raised the $2.7 million needed to preserve the magnificent Mill Bend site at the mouth of the Gualala River as a permanent, community-owned park.

RCLC launched the final $600,000 phase of its Campaign to Preserve Mill Bend early this summer after securing $2.1 million in government grants. Kathleen Chasey, who said she has been involved in this project “from the very first day,” said the $2.1 million was to acquire the property, but the $600,000 is a stewardship fund.

“We can’t, as a land trust, take on a property unless we have a stewardship fund,” Chasey explained. RCLC is a small, volunteer-run nonprofit, and at first the idea of raising hundreds of thousands more was daunting, she said. So RCLC began quietly contacting potential donors and raised half of the needed stewardship funds before publicly launching this final fundraising phase.

When the organization did mount its campaign this year, “We went out there and asked the community,” Chasey said, “and they responded. It got people’s attention.”

“The community response has been amazing”, said Tina Batt, president of the local land trust. “More than 500 people have stepped up to make sure this beautiful piece of land is preserved as a park forever.”

Now that the funds to preserve Mill Bend have been raised, RCLC hopes to close escrow on the property before the end of the year and to start planning for the long-term preservation and restoration of the Mill Bend site.

The acquisition and stewardship of this property is a major undertaking for RCLC, which until now has been an all-volunteer organization. As RCLC began its work on the restoration of Mill Bend and the creation of trails and public access improvements, Batt said, “We have recognized that we will need to hire professional staff to oversee and coordinate the next phase of planning for the Mill Bend project.” RCLC is currently seeking a part- time Mill Bend project manager and has posted the position on its website.

The 113-acre Mill Bend site, located south of Gualala on both sides of the Highway 1 bridge, extends along the Gualala River estuary at the mouth of the Gualala River and, as the gateway to the Gualala River watershed, is the first step in long-term plans for a Gualala River Park.

“Now our next steps are the fun part,” Chasey said. “We’ve launched the next phase: the planning process,” she said.

RCLC recently presented an online community forum entitled “Mill Bend, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow” to bring community residents up to date on next steps for Mill Bend and to gather input on community preferences. People who missed the forum can see a recording of the presentation on the RCLC website at rclc. org. People can also still leave feedback for the organization through a survey on the website as well.

Chasey said the group hopes to provide some initial results in January or February 2021.

Founded in 1992, Redwood Coast Land Conservancy is a local land trust based in Gualala and supported primarily by local volunteers and by donors near and far. In partnership with the California State Coastal Conservancy and other agencies, RCLC has set aside and protected multiple scenic public access areas along the southern Mendocino Coast, including the Gualala Bluff Trail, Cooks Beach and Hearn Gulch Preserve. RCLC also holds local conservation easements for habitat protection and enhancement.

Contributions for the Mill Bend project can be made to the Redwood Coast Land Conservancy via its website or by sending a check to P.O. Box 1511, Gualala, CA 95445.

Article about Mill Bend Campaign in the ICO…just $15K needed

Article about Mill Bend Campaign in the ICO…just $15K needed

The Redwood Coast Land Conservancy (RCLC) has announced that it is less than $15,000 away from reaching its challenging goal of raising $2.7 million to secure the magnificent Mill Bend site at the mouth of the Gualala River as a permanent, community-owned park.  

In June, RCLC launched the final $600,000 phase of its Campaign to Preserve Mill after securing $2.1 million in government grants. “The public response to this final phase of our campaign has been phenomenal”, says Christina Batt, president of the local land trust. “The community has really stepped up to make sure this beautiful piece of land is preserved as a park forever”.

Once the final $15,000 is raised, RCLC will be able to close escrow on the property and start planning for the long-term preservation and restoration of the Mill Bend site.

RCLC will be presenting “Mill Bend, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow”, a live online presentation on Sunday, August 30 to bring everyone up to date on next steps for Mill Bend.  The presentation, which will be held at 3pm via Zoom, will also provide an opportunity for community input on improving public access for the Mill Bend site.

The 113-acre Mill Bend site, located south of Gualala on both sides of the Highway One Bridge, extends along the Gualala River estuary at the mouth of the Gualala River and, as the gateway to the Gualala River watershed, is the first step in long-term plans for a Gualala River Park. “Preserving the Land, Restoring the River and Sustaining Our Community” is the theme of the campaign to acquire this significant site for the community. Plans for the property also include an extensive network of trails and improved public access to the river.

Purchase of the property will enable RCLC to protect and restore fish and wildlife habitat and provide opportunities for visitors to enjoy sightings of the many species of wildlife, birds, and wildflowers on the site, including bald eagles, osprey, otters, turtles, frogs, steelhead and coho salmon.

RCLC submitted successful grant applications for $2.1 million in state and federal grants and has raised more than $585,000 from foundations and the local community for the acquisition, project planning and stewardship of the strikingly beautiful site at the mouth of the Gualala River. Once the property is acquired, RCLC will be responsible for the ongoing stewardship of the site and for providing public access and restoring the habitat of the river and the terrain that surrounds it.

Founded in 1992, Redwood Coast Land Conservancy is a local land trust based in Gualala and supported primarily by local volunteers and by donors near and far. In partnership with California State Coastal Conservancy, RCLC has set aside and protected multiple scenic public access areas along the southern Mendocino Coast, including the Gualala Bluff Trail, Cooks Beach and Hearn Gulch Preserve. RCLC also holds local conservation easements for habitat protection and enhancement.  Further information about Mill Bend and the August 30 online presentation is on the RCLC website, www.rclc.org.  Members of the public are encouraged to fill out the community survey which will be available on the RCLC website following the presentation. Contributions for the Mill Bend campaign can be made to the Redwood Coast Land Conservancy via its website or by sending a check to P.O. Box 1511, Gualala, CA 95445.

Mill Bend makes a splash on TV

Mill Bend makes a splash on TV

Tune in to see our local Mill Bend gain some fame.  NBC Bay Area’s “Open Road” program, starring Doug McConnell, filmed the estuary of Gualala River recently.  He interviewed Redwood Coast Land Conservancy’s (RCLC) Mill Bend Project Manager Kathleen Chasey and learned about plans for a new river park.

Doug McConnell says, “We’ll fall in love with the scenic wonders of the Sonoma Coast where big plans are underway to give everyone more access to its world-class natural treasures.”

The show will air for the first time Sunday July 19, 2020 at 6:30 PM on Bay Area NBC.  It will show again on Sunday August 9, 2020 at 6:30 PM on the same channel.

The Open Road program features several locations in each episode.  Here is the summary for Episode 59 with Mill Bend.

“We’ll discover mysterious and majestic volcanic spires riding a famous fault north from southern California towards the Bay Area now serving as a sanctuary for ancient and long-endangered birds with the widest wingspans in North America. We’ll fall in love with the scenic wonders of the Sonoma Coast where big plans are underway to give everyone more access to its world-class natural treasures. We’ll celebrate outdoor delights all around the Bay Area and the importance of public parks and open spaces to the health and well-being of each of us and our communities during the pandemic.”

RCLC is actively fundraising in 2020 to purchase Mill Bend and provide for long-term stewardship for this future park.  Check out our campaign’s progress at https://www.rclc.org/give/mill-bend-campaign/

Be sure to join us for the visual treat of Bay Area’s Open Roads show Sunday July 19 or August 9 at 6:30 P.M. on NBC TV.

RCLC launches final Mill Bend campaign

RCLC launches final Mill Bend campaign

news@mendonoma.com
6/5/2020
Photo courtesey of Redwood Coast Land Conservancy
Copyright 2018, Independent Coast Observer, Inc. Reprinted with permission.

The Redwood Coast Land Conservancy (RCLC) has launched the final phase of its $2.7 million campaign to preserve Mill Bend and is seeking the last $205,000 needed to preserve and protect Mill Bend in perpetuity as a community-owned park.

The RCLC hopes to complete this final phase of the campaign by fall. When the goal is reached, the RCLC will be able to close escrow on the property and begin planning for the long-term preservation, restoration and public access for the Mill Bend site.

“Preserving the Land, Restoring the River and Sustaining Our Community” is the theme of the campaign to acquire the Mill Bend site. Plans for the property include an extensive network of trails and improved public access to the Gualala River. Mendonoma locals should watch their mailboxes for more information on how to become involved.

A view of the Mill Bend property from the Gualala Point Park side in Sonoma County.  Photo courtesy of Redwood Coast Land Conservancy

“Imagine nearly three miles of trails starting from town and winding along the river, through a restored redwood forest and a beautiful coastal meadow,” said Kathleen Chasey, the RCLC’s volunteer Mill Bend Project Manager. “Once we finalize the acquisition, we can begin accessing the site and planning in earnest to restore degraded habitat, build a thoughtful trail network for hiking and provide improved access along the river for kayaking in the lagoon and paddling the river.”

The 113-acre Mill Bend site extends on both sides of the Highway 1 bridge in Mendocino County and on both sides of the river. The site is adjacent to the Gualala Point Regional Park and is the gateway to the Gualala River watershed. It is the first step in long-term plans for a Gualala River Park.

Purchase of the property will enable the RCLC and its partners at the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Marine Fisheries to protect and restore fish and wildlife habitat and provide opportunities for visitors. They will be able to enjoy sightings of the many species of wildlife, birds and wildflowers on the site, including bald eagles, osprey, otters, turtles, frogs, steelhead and Coho salmon.

With $2,495,000 in major grants and community contributions already in place, the RCLC is close to raising the $2.7 million needed to acquire and steward Mill Bend. “It is exciting to be so close to our goal,” said RCLC President Tina Batt. “I want to thank the Allemall Foundation, our lead donors Larry Jacobs and Mirka Knaster, Susan Clark, Cindy Kennedy, the Resource Legacy Foundation and the many other donors for their generous contributions.”

RCLC agency and foundation partners include Gualala Arts, Sonoma Land Trust, Sonoma Regional Parks, Friends of the Gualala River, California Native Plant Society DKY Chapter, Mendocino Land Trust, Gualala River Watershed Council, California State Coastal Conservancy, US Fish & Wildlife and the California Natural Resource Agency. All have provided strong support and commitment to the project.

The Gualala Arts Center, whose property is adjacent to the Mill Bend site, is partnering with the RCLC to help maintain the overflow parking area located on the Mill Bend property, so that the area can continue to accommodate major events at the Arts Center.

Once the current COVID-19 restrictions are eased enough to allow group gatherings again, the RCLC will resume offering tours of Mill Bend, where people will have an opportunity to share plans and ideas for the site.

The RCLC invites locals, visitors and business owners to contribute to this significant project for the community.

More information about the RCLC and about tours and plans for Mill Bend can be found on the RCLC website at www.rclc.org. Contributions for the Mill Bend project can be made to the Redwood Coast Land Conservancy via its website or by sending a check to P.O. Box 1511, Gualala, CA 95445.

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