MENDOCINO Co, CA, 1/26/23 — Thursday was the second and final day of mandated evacuation by an exit-only temporary bridge at Creekside Cabins & RV Resort, almost a month after a sinkhole cut off vehicle access for the dozens of residents living at the property. The mobile home park was bustling with a flurry of activity at midday, with one resident heading to the DMV to register her RV, others stowing belongings in their vehicles and trying to ratchet in extensions so their trailers would fit across the bridge, and some attempting to find the correct tools to attach their RVs to a hauler.
A county news release said that as of 4:30 p.m. Thursday, of the 27 households identified by Social Services, 13 households had been issued vouchers to an alternate RV park and of those, five had checked in; two had been issued hotel vouchers and were checked into their rooms; three had provided a moving plan, though two of those plans were unverified; and eight had not provided information to the county or requested services.
A contractor working on the property to haul RVs to their next destinations told The Mendocino Voice only two trailers were hauled out Wednesday. At noon Thursday, with five hours for the temporary bridge and traffic control to remain in place, he said around eight RVs were ready — but getting some larger vehicles out of the park and across the narrow temporary bridge can take upwards of half an hour.
“Anyone we are working with to get evacuated should be able to evacuate,” county representative Heather Correll Rose told The Voice. Mendocino County had contracted with Wylatti Resource Management, Inc. to construct a temporary bridge for residents to leave the property, open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday.
The evacuation was prompted after Public Health declared a local health emergency after finding E. coli in drinking water, noting also that graywater from RVs was draining onto the ground and into the creek. The county announced plans to litigate against landlord Teresa Thurman this week, seeking “abatement” of the health concerns at Creekside.
Further, according to the county’s Thursday news release, part of the RV park had encroached on state property, which was discovered after county staff noticed discrepancies in the parcel boundary lines. Though Caltrans identified a portion of the park as state lands, the agency maintains that the failed culvert itself is Thurman’s responsibility to fix.
“Although the driveway and culvert are constructed within the Caltrans right of way, they are not part of US-101 and do not benefit the traveling public,” Caltrans representative Manny Machado wrote in an email to the Voice on Thursday. “The driveway is considered an encroachment on State right of way. Because the driveway’s purpose is to benefit a private property and not the general public, Caltrans policy dictates that ‘it is the responsibility of the property owner to maintain the approach from their property line to the shoulder of the highway.’”
A representative for Wylatti Resource Management, the contractor that installed the bridge, told The Voice that they had a “very good plan for the landowner early on, for a compliant fix.” But she “ghosted us” after being told some payment was needed upfront, he said.
Brittany, a young woman whose mother has been in the hospital since just before the culvert collapse, no longer lives at Creekside but was helping to move another RV off the property on Thursday. She grew up on the property for 11 years and is unsure what will happen to her mother’s home and belongings.
“A lot of people are just throwing all their stuff away, and that’s the way they’re able to move,” she said. “They’re going to move, and they’re going to have nothing other than their home.”
She pointed out that many people can’t afford a move like this, or the uncertain future to follow: “A lot of the reason people are here is because this is some of the cheapest rent in Mendocino County.”
One resident, Denise, told The Voice that she doesn’t plan to leave because the bus she lives in at Creekside weighs 70,000 pounds. Wylatti was not able to provide an exact weight limit for the temporary bridge, a former rail bridge, but contractors felt anything in the park should be able to safely cross. Denise didn’t want to take the chance.
“I’m going to have to stay, because I’m not willing to risk losing everything I worked so hard for because they won’t guarantee that it can support the weight,” she said. “I’m not willing to end up in that creek. I would rather have to hike in my water and hike out my waste.”
While she said the experience has been “a circus,” she’s grateful for community members and nonprofits (such as United Disaster Relief of Northern California, which is currently accepting donations to help Creekside evacuees) who have dropped off propane, food, and other supplies to aid those trapped there.
It’s unclear what will happen to residents who choose to stay. In the Thursday release, the county said, “Any resident or member of the public with specific enforcement-related questions may contact the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office.”
Donna, a former resident who has been helping friends move, worries the hasty process will exacerbate stigma about Creekside.
“They can’t take all their stuff, and they’re going to leave it looking so bad — and then [the authorities] are going to come through here, and take pictures, and say, ‘This is why it’s closed,’” she said.
County rep. Correll Rose said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would be on-site Thursday as they are “evaluating storm damage countywide,” but Mendocino County has “no commitments from them at this time.”
Note: Kate Fishman covers the environment & natural resources for The Mendocino Voice in partnership with a Report For America. Her position is funded by the Community Foundation of Mendocino, Report for America, & our readers. You can support Fishman’s work with a tax-deductible donation here or by emailing [email protected]. Contact her at KFishman@mendovoice.com or at (707) 234-7735. The Voice maintains editorial control and independence.