Fort Bragg Advocate article:
Following an extensive executive director search, Redwood Coast Land Conservancy announced that Jim Elias would step into the role on September 6. Founded 30 years ago, RCLC’s mission is to protect and restore the natural habitats of Southern Mendocino and Northern Sonoma Counties and to connect people to those landscapes.
With the 2021 acquisition of Mill Bend Preserve—the southern gateway to coastal Mendocino County—Board of Directors President John Walton described the organization as now needing professional staff. “RCLC has always relied heavily on its board members and local volunteers to achieve its goals. However, the workload has simply outgrown us. The objectives outlined in the Mill Bend Preserve Conservation Plan, together with more emerging opportunities, call for this upward step. RCLC’s board of directors feels very fortunate that Jim is coming aboard.”
Mr. Elias has devoted his professional life to leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to natural resource conservation and community development objectives. Elias’ work spearheaded acquisition initiatives that permanently protected more than 60,000 acres of natural, recreational, and agricultural landscapes in the Sierra, Rocky Mountains, and Inter mountain West.
“Impactful and lasting conservation is always a shared effort. I’m honored to join RCLC’s committed team toward preserving our coastal lands and providing new points of public access,” Elias said. “On a personal note, my family and I have deep roots in the North Bay. You can often find us in the ocean, on a river, or wandering the back roads of the Coast Range by bike. I’m eager to get started.”
Meet Elias, Mill Bend volunteers, and RCLC Board of Directors members at their upcoming event, “Raising the Curtain,” on Saturday, September 17, from 1:00 – 4:00 pm. at the Gualala Arts Center, 46501 Old State Hwy, Gualala.
To learn more about Redwood Coast Land Conservancy, visit their website https://www.rclc. org, or find them on Face- book.
Fort Bragg Advocate article:
For those who are looking for a new place to hike, bird-watch, gaze at the sunset, see the changing seasons or be one with nature in this beautiful piece of paradise we are privileged to call home, there is good news: Redwood Coast Land Conservancy has been hard at work with several exciting projects brewing, which will satisfy the seeker and wanderer in everyone.
The Redwood Coast Land Conservancy is excited to announce the unveiling of the Conservation Plan for Mill Bend Preserve, prepared by the environmental science and design consultant Prunuske Chatham, Inc, with funding provided by the Calif. State Coastal Conservancy. The 113-acre Preserve straddles the lower Gualala River and estuary and extends into the hillside redwood forest at the gateway to Gualala, Mendocino, and Sonoma counties. The Conservation Plan describes the property’s natural and cultural resources, the practical framework for resource restoration and preservation, and appropriate public access to this unique place on the California coast.
The new Conservation Plan provides thorough and thoughtful guidance for long-term stewardship of the Preserve, including ways to protect sensitive species and improve their habitats, prevent the spread of pathogens and invasive species, facilitate climate change resilience, and manage wildfire hazards.
Public access improvements include approximately two miles of new trails, boardwalks across the wetland and riparian areas, accessible restrooms, vehicle and bicycle parking, plus picnic and viewing areas.
The plan shows how the California Coastal Trail can be extended through the Preserve from the existing Gualala Bluff Trail to the estuary and county line. Public access will also include extensive interpretive signs and other media to share the wealth of natural and cultural histories, restoration and conservation science, and community action at the Preserve.
“We arc thankful to the many individuals and organizations that have contributed to the formation of this plan,” says John Walton, President of Redwood Coast Land Conservancy.
The Redwood Coast Land Conservancy invites everyone, especially the local community, to learn about the exciting future of Mill Bend Preserve. Stop by the interactive open house on September 17th, 2022, at the Gualala Arts Center. The event offers the choice of attending presentations at 1:15 p.m. or 2:15 p.m., plus plenty of time to talk with members of the planning team, view maps and exhibits, and enjoy the beautiful Arts Center gardens. A guided walking tour of the restored River Rail Trail will be offered at the end of the open house.
“We are eager to share the Conservation Plan with the community and look forward to implementing the plan with you,” says Dave Shpak, Mill Bend Conservation Project Manager.
Please contact Redwood Coast Land Conservancy for any questions about the community open house https://www.rclc.org.
Read about the effects of drought changes in the Gualala River estuary’s summer lagoon. Are you seeing native aquatic vegetation or algal blooms? Dr. Peter Baye of Friends of Gualala River takes us on a virtual field trip to answer this question and more.
Click here to read this article…
By J. Stephen McLaughlin
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.
By J. Stephen McLaughlin
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.