Mill Bend Preserve Conservation Plan
Habitats of redwood, bishop pine, and alder forests, willow thickets, coastal scrub, emergent wetlands, and the Gualala River estuary are recovering from historic industrial and timber harvest disturbance. Even while burdened with extensive invasive plant populations and residual soil damage, existing habitats support diverse native plant and animal life, some of particular rarity. The Mill Bend Preserve Conservation Plan describes specific measures to restore habitat health, support native species, and adapt to climate change.
Public access improvements include approximately 2 miles of new trails, boardwalks through wetland and riparian areas, restrooms, and picnic areas. The existing California Coastal Trail can be extended from the Gualala Bluff Trail to the estuary via the upland Preserve to boost visitor experience and safety. More detailed designs have been prepared for improving recreational access to the estuary, including a durable access road and parking, a boardwalk into the willow forest, and off-channel backwater habitat. Interpretive signs are planned to inform visitors and support community engagement activities, such as guided walks. Click here to continue reading an abstract…
View historic photos and history of Mill Bend here >>
View the Mill Bend Community Input Survey here
The historic Mill Bend property was purchased by a conservation buyer, The Allemall Foundation, in September, 2019. Redwood Coast Land Conservancy (RCLC) raised the funds in 2020 to purchase it from the conservation buyer in early 2021.
The scenic Mill Bend property contains an estuary and wetlands, which are critical habitat for many species of fish, including endangered Coho salmon and Steelhead.
RCLC can now continue planning for riverfront trails and better river access for fishermen and paddlers. Protection of the sensitive area from off-road vehicles will also be a goal.
Kathleen Chasey, former board member and Mill Bend Project Manager, was a strong advocate for protecting this property. “Mill Bend is the gateway to the Gualala River Watershed and the front porch of our community. It offers incredible opportunities for important habitat restoration and to connect wildlife corridors. Future trailbuilding will also add a missing section of the California Coastal Trail.”
FACTS ABOUT MILL BEND
The Mill Bend property consists of two riverfront parcels totaling about 113 acres.
Mill Bend is a 54-acre parcel situated along the Gualala Estuary west of Highway One. Securing this property will provide an opportunity to extend the California Coastal Trail south from the Gualala Bluff Trail through Mill Bend and on to the Sonoma County Regional Park and The Sea Ranch.
The Upper Mill parcel is a 59-acre property east of Highway One which extends from the river to the Gualala Arts Center. Securing the property will ensure that the site will be preserved for its conservation values and will provide greater community access to the river.
The Gualala River Estuary provides an important freshwater environment for young steelhead, a small Coho salmon population, the Gualala roach, and other fish species.
Red-legged frogs, harbor seals, river otters, osprey and a pair of bald eagles are among the wildlife species that live along the river.
Facilities- Picnic tables are provided. Doggie bag dispenser, benches, bathrooms and garbage cans are not provided.
The purchase of the Mill Bend property forever protects this valuable estuary and provides opportunities for restoration of critical habitat for salmonids and other fish.
Public Access The riverbank has provided historic public access to the river in the past. Unfortunately, truck and off-highway vehicles driving in the willow wetlands and gravel banks has degraded the riverbed.
Purchase will allow improvements to be made to protect the environmentally sensitive habitat of endangered and threatened species and will provide for responsible public access.
The Mill Bend property includes 13 acres on the south bank of the river directly adjacent to Sonoma County’s Gualala Point Regional Park. Its purchase allows the existing park boundaries to be extended to the estuary.
Potential Future Expansion As the gateway to the Gualala River, Mill Bend is a key piece in the long-term plan for the Gualala River Park envisioned by the community and Sonoma County.
History– Very little written history exists about Mill Bend. We have compiled some historical photos and an essay on the early history on our Mill Bend History page.
More recently, in late 2017, RCLC became involved when the two key parcels along the Mill Bend in the Gualala River became available for sale for the first time in over 60 years. RCLC and other local conservation groups formed the Mill Bend Coalition. They sought to find a way to acquire this property and forever preserve the natural features of the scenic gateway to the Gualala River watershed.
A generous conservation buyer set up a Gualala River Park LLC to hold the property while RCLC raised the funds needed for its permanent protection.
Mendocino Land Trust took an early lead in working with RCLC to identify potential funders and to set up the necessary environmental testing of the site.
As the project moved forward, RCLC took the lead role in working with the conservation buyer and lead the community effort to fund the purchase and stewardship of the property. The $2.7 million goal to purchase the property was reached in September, 2020. The property closed escrow in January, 2021.
Contributions– Donations for ongoing Mill Bend development can be made to the Redwood Coast Land Conservancy here or by sending a check to P.O. Box 1511, Gualala, CA 95445.
“I have been a supporter of this project from the start and have been glad to advocate on behalf of Redwood Coast Land Conservancy so they can obtain vital funding. Restoring and preserving these lands will not only bring much-needed recreational value to the area, but it will have long-lasting benefits for our invaluable coastal wetlands and uplands habitat.”
Jared Huffman, U.S. Congressman, CA. Second District
The Mill Bend Conservation Project, located at the mouth of the Gualala River, is an exciting opportunity for the Mendonoma region.
Click on the image below to view Mill Bend planning or go to this infographic.
Redwood Coast Land Conservancy public access protected properties
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