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.
The Coastal Commission recently awarded a Whale Tail Grant to the CA Urban Streams Alliance – The Stream Team. The grant is to initiate a stewardship engagement and watershed monitoring effort for the impaired, lower reach of the Gualala River and estuary, a habitat for endangered species such as young Coho salmon and steelhead.
Redwood Coast Land Conservancy (RCLC) and Friends of the Gualala River (FOGR) are partnering with The Stream Team in this volunteer, community-based project. The project is inclusive, aiming to recruit and involve a broad spectrum of Mendonoma residents from Manchester to Stewarts Point including students, teachers, and members of community organizations.
Although The Stream Team is based in Chico, California, Timmarie Hamill, the Director of The Stream Team, is not new to coast. Her involvement began in 2000, when she landed a grant with Friends of the Garcia River (FrOG) to engage students and community members in conducting water quality surveys of the Garcia River. In 2003, Timmarie completed her teaching credential while working at Point Arena High School and Pacific Community Charter School as a student teacher of biology. For Discover the Coast in 2016 and 2017, The Stream Team provided a docent station to test the water quality of a creek on Point Arena–Stornetta Public Lands.
The Gualala River Stream Team Stewardship Project has four main goals: (1) Raise awareness about the Gualala River and its estuary by promoting education and engagement through environmental stewardship; (2) Establish a Gualala River Stream Team to engage the community in watershed assessment; (3) Involve a wide range of Mendonoma residents; and (4) Build organizational capacity to sustain the projects.
The Stream Team’s annual training and quarterly water monitoring events took place on RCLC’s Mill Bend Property. At the annual training in July, participants learned about: 1) habitat and water quality impairments within the Gualala River watershed, 2) life cycle of Coho salmon and steelhead, 3) effects of climate change on watershed health, 4) effective stewardship practices, 5) proper use of monitoring equipment and sampling protocols, and 6) safety measures for field work.
Quarterly water monitoring events will evaluate chemical, physical, and biological characteristics of the Gualala River and its estuary. FOGR is providing funding for The Stream Team’s preparation of the Monitoring Plan (MP) and Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP). The next event is scheduled for Saturday October 22, 2022.
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.