Mill Bend Access road now closed to vehicles sunset to sunrise

Mill Bend Access road now closed to vehicles sunset to sunrise

Photo: RCLC volunteer Marcia Nybakken stands by closed access gate to the Mill Bend property in Gualala. Photo courtesy of RCLC

To improve security at the Mill Bend boat launch site, the gate to the access site will now be closed to vehicle traffic sunset to sunrise, according to Redwood Coast Land Conservancy which owns the property.

Redwood Coast Land Conservancy is now partnering with Sonoma County Parks staff who will lock the gate each night. Pedestrians and boaters will be able to enter the area and haul in kayaks or canoes.

Redwood Coast Land Conservancy, Mendonoma’s local land trust, is managing the 113-acre Mill Bend property with the goal of providing both responsible stewardship as well as public access to the site.

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.

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.

Pin It on Pinterest