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.
By Chris McManus
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.