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.

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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