Redwood Coast Land Conservancy hires new executive director

Redwood Coast Land Conservancy hires new executive director

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.

Redwood Coast Land Conservancy to unveil plan for Mill Bend Preserve

Redwood Coast Land Conservancy to unveil plan for Mill Bend Preserve

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

Hands-on volunteers drive land conservancy projects

Hands-on volunteers drive land conservancy projects

By J. Stephen McLaughlin

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

Forum to explore purchase of Mill Bend parcels

Forum to explore purchase of Mill Bend parcels

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.

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