Vehicle apparently damages Cooks Beach approach with repeated passes up and down stairs, over berm; 2nd incident this year

Vehicle apparently damages Cooks Beach approach with repeated passes up and down stairs, over berm; 2nd incident this year

Above Photo: The access steps to Cooks Beach taken this weekend after the steps and nearby berm were damaged by an unknown motorist.

Published by the Independent Coast Observer, October 29, 2021

Photos by Joel Chaban

The access steps to Cooks Beach before damage by an unknown vehicle driving up and down tore them up. The photo was taken as part of an application to the California Coastal Commission to install bollards protecting the bluff top.

The recent storm is not the only thing causing damage to local beaches. According to Joel Chaban, secretary of Redwood Coast Land Conservancy, it appears a pickup truck drove up and down the bluff top steps used as an entrance to Cooks Beach in the last few days, causing damage to the steps.

In addition, the driver drove up and down the berm adjacent to these stairs, Chaban said.

“This berm, previously eroded by a wedding party event a couple of months ago, now has several long deep gouges on the ocean side of the berm that run in several directions,” he explained.

“The earth has also been gouged along both sides of the stairs and on the stairs where it appears the tires were spinning in an attempt to drive up the stairs.”

The wedding Chaban described was done without permission from RCLC, Mendocino County or the California Coastal Commission, and had already caused erosion to the berm before the recent vehicle damage.

Currently there is no plan to do any repairs at Cooks beach, said Chaban, who is the project manager for that beach. “I will try to get down there and do some repairs on the stairs and put down some wood chips to protect them from foot traffic,” he said, adding that RCLC is in the process of applying for Coastal Commission and County permits to put up bollards to prevent any driving on the bluff top.

However, it will take several months to get the permits, he said.

“I ironically took the ‘before’ photos a week be fore the latest damage to develop design drawings for the bollards required by the County and Coastal Commission,” Chaban added. “In the meantime, the ground is wet and will get wetter! Be thoughtful and careful.”

Cooks Beach, just north of Gualala, is one of four properties in Mendonoma stewarded by RCLC. The others include the Gualala Bluff Trail, Hearn Gulch and Mill Bend.

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.

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.

Forum to explore purchase of Mill Bend parcels

Forum to explore purchase of Mill Bend parcels

By Chris McManus
news@mendonoma.com

The Gualala Municipal Advisory Council will sponsor a community forum on the Mill Bend property on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 6 to 8 p.m., at the Gualala Community Center. The forum is the brainchild of John Walton, who went to GMAC in August to pitch the idea of a forum to see if the property could be purchased and turned into community or public lands.

Walton is still working to firm up presenters at the forum, but one who has confirmed is Cindy Kennedy, the realtor who has the listing for the $2,475 million parcels. “I will be talking about the property,” said Kennedy, who added that she does have maps and “nice aerial photos” to show interested locals.

Walton was clear his preference is that the properties become public lands, and he has been thinking about the properties since Gualala Redwoods, Inc., founded in 1948 by J. Ollie Edmunds, Sr., sold the bulk of its properties in April 2015 to the Burch family of San Jose, which now operates the woodlands as Gualala Redwood Timber.

An unsuccessful bid for the 29,500-acre timber lands was made by a group of conservation organizations at the time.

However, the company held back several parcels, including the Mill Bend and Lower Mill Bend parcels, which are being marketed together, and Walton said he is hoping that this time, a consortium could be formed to purchase the properties.

In its latest newsletter, the Redwood Coast Land Conservancy, which was a member of the group that bid on the properties in 2015, let it be known it is interested in an easement or an outright acquisition of the Mill Bend parcels, which include 112 acres of Gualala River frontage on both sides of Highway 1 at the south end of Mendocino County.

RCLC “recognize[s] the opportunity the sale presents for protecting Mill Bend from development and improving community access to this strikingly beautiful river property in the heart of Gualala,” read the newsletter.

Walton said the forum is open to the public although he is actively contacting organizations that might be interested.

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