MENDOCINO Co., 6/2/20 — Near the mouth of the Gualala River lies Mill Bend. Protecting this land, ensuring it is a safe habitat for endangered and threatened species as well as a sanctuary for hikers, bikers, paddlers, and more, has been a long time project of the Redwood Coast Land Conservancy (RCLC). Now the project is one step closer to completion.
As they announced in their press release (available below) of May 21, the Conservancy, a non-profit land trust, has secured $2.1 million in grants to protect 113 acres of coastal wetlands and surrounding hills of the Gualala River Estuary. The US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), a federal agency within the Department of the Interior, the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA), and the California State Coastal Conservancy (SCC) all contributed funds for this preservation plan — the Gualala River Mill Bend Conservation Project.
This week, the Conservancy is launching the last phase of its project — raising the final $205,000 for stewardship of Mill Bend. Raising this money will allow them to protect the area as a park and conservatory far into the future. As they wrote in a different press release (available below), circulated yesterday, they hope to have reached their goal by fall.
“Even though the Redwood Coast Land Conservancy will own the property, the community will feel like we own it,” said Kathleen Chasey, project manager, over the phone. The Conservancy will continue to consult the community about their desires for the park and inform them of new information they receive from conservations and scientists about how the land should be developed.
As the project continues, they plan to work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to restore the estuary and the main stem of the Gualala River in order to improve habitat for juvenile steelhead trout and Coho Salmon. Both species are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
In addition, the Conservancy says they hope to, among other things, restore the wetland, fill in a missing piece of the California Coastal Trail, and improve community access to the river.
While the Conservancy moves towards the finish line, they have opened up the land to the public.
Here’s the press release:
Grassroots Effort to Conserve Gualala River Estuary takes a $2.1 million step toward success
May 21, 2020
Sometimes it does take a small group of passionate locals to conserve a river estuary forever. In 2017, 113 acres of scenic and environmentally sensitive coastal wetlands and adjacent uplands surrounding the Gualala River went up for sale for the first time in over 70 years. The community came together, signaled their desire for open space with sensitive public access versus development. The movement began.
Today the Redwood Coast Land Conservancy (RCLC) announced that it has received three grants totaling over $2.1 million for the Gualala River Mill Bend Conservation Project that they are stewarding for the community. The US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) awarded the project $1 million through the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Program. An $845,000 award came from the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) through the Environmental Enhancement & Mitigation Program. The third grant award of $300,000 came from the California State Coastal Conservancy (SCC) and will allow for initial site assessment and a conservation master plan.
“RCLC feels fortunate to share conservation goals with our federal and state partners. The Mill Bend project will clean up a degraded area from a century of timber mill use and enable wildlife habitat restoration, estuary enhancement for steelhead and salmon and thoughtful public access including continuing the California Coastal Trail” reports Kathleen Chasey, the Project Manager for RCLC.
Founded in 1992, the Redwood Coast Land Conservancy is the local land trust for the Mendonoma coast. RCLC has taken the lead role to secure the funds for the Mill Bend acquisition, planning and stewardship and is conducting a $2.7 million Campaign to Preserve Mill Bend. “We plan to raise enough funds through additional smaller foundation grants and community contributions to preserve and protect this vital property in perpetuity, says RCLC President Christina Batt.
In addition to the three grants awarded, RCLC must raise $600,000 for stewardship since funders for the acquisition require substantial stewardship funds be in place to demonstrate adequate resources to manage and protect the property forever. RCLC has been quietly contacting key donors and has lined up $300,000 in lead gifts. The official launch of the campaign to raise $600,000 was to begin in March but was postponed to now because of the COVID-19 virus outbreak. Contributions toward the Mill Bend Campaign are welcomed.
More information about RCLC and the Campaign to Preserve Mill Bend can be found on the RCLC website at www.rclc.org. Contributions to RCLC can be made via its website or by sending a check to P.O.Box 1511, Gualala, CA 95445Redwood Coast Land Conservancy
RCLC launches final phase of Campaign to Preserve Mill Bend a first step in the long-term plans for a Gualala River Park
June 1, 2020
This week the Redwood Coast Land Conservancy (RCLC) is launching the final phase of its $2.7 million Campaign to Preserve Mill Bend and is seeking the final $205,000 needed to preserve and protect Mill Bend as a community-owned park.
RCLC hopes to complete this final phase of the campaign by fall. When the goal is reached, RCLC will be able to close escrow on the property and begin planning for the long-term preservation and restoration of the Mill Bend site.
“Preserving the Land, Restoring the River and Sustaining Our Community” is the theme of the campaign to acquire this 113-acre site for the community. Plans for the property also include an extensive network of trails and improved public access to the river. Mendonoma locals should watch their mailboxes for more information on how to become involved.
“Imagine nearly three miles of trails starting from town and winding along the river, through a restored redwood forest and a beautiful coastal meadow”, says Kathleen Chasey, RCLC’s volunteer Mill Bend Project Manager. “Once we acquire this property, we can begin accessing the site and planning in earnest to restore degraded habitat, build a thoughtful trail network for hiking this beautiful property and provide improved access along the river for kayaking in the lagoon and paddling the river.”
The 113-acre Mill Bend site extends on both sides of the Highway 1 bridge and on both sides of the river. The site is contiguous with the Gualala Point Regional Park and is the gateway to the Gualala River watershed and the first step in long-term plans for a Gualala River Park.
Purchase of the property will enable RCLC and their partners at NOAA National Marine Fisheries and CDFW to protect and restore fish and wildlife habitat and provide opportunities for visitors to enjoy sightings of the many species of wildlife, birds, and wildflowers on the site, including bald eagles, osprey, otters, turtles, frogs, steelhead and coho salmon.
With $2,495,000 in major grants and community contributions already in place, RCLC is very close to raising the $2.7 million needed to acquire Mill Bend. “It is exciting to be so close to our goal”, says RCLC President Tina Batt. “I want to thank The Allemall Foundation, our lead donors Larry Jacobs and Mirka Knaster, Susan Clark, Cindy Kennedy, the Resource Legacy Foundation, and the many other donors for their generous contributions”.
RCLC appreciates the support from agency and foundation partners including Gualala Arts, Sonoma Land Trust, Sonoma Regional Parks, Friends of the Gualala River, California Native Plant Society DKY, Mendocino Land Trust, Gualala River Watershed Council, California State Coastal Conservancy, US Fish & Wildlife and the California Natural Resource Agency for their strong commitment to the project”.
Gualala Arts Center, whose property is adjacent to the Mill Bend site, is partnering with RCLC to help maintain the overflow parking area located on the Mill Bend property, so that the area can continue to be used by the Arts Center for major events.
Once the current Covid-19 restrictions are eased enough to allow group gatherings again, RCLC will resume offering tours of Mill Bend, where people will have an opportunity to share plans and ideas for the site.
RCLC invites locals, visitors and business owners to contribute to this significant project for our community.
More information about RCLC and about tours and plans for Mill Bend can be found on the RCLC website at www.rclc. org. Contributions for Mill Bend can be made to the Redwood Coast Land Conservancy via its website or by sending a check to P.O. Box 1511, Gualala, CA 95445.Redwood Coast Land Conservancy