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Posts Tagged ‘Mendocino’

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Why are these people smiling?

 

So, I spent the Memorial Day weekend at my sister’s house in Mendocino. The sky was overcast and the ocean calm and gray. It was abalone hunting season. Parked cars filled the side of the road along the bluff disgorging their black-rubber suited occupants and their tire irons. The divers lined up and marched down the sinuous steep paths that snaked along the bluff face to the water below. From the top of the bluff, they looked like a dark ant army covering the rocks and invading the kelp beds. A lot of them were Asian, Japanese and Chinese tourists. I guess they were flown over here for the abalone hunting season. I suspect, if they were Muslim the current administration in Washington would suddenly become abalone conservationists.

Most of the time, Mary, George and I sat in the house talking and laughing among ourselves by the large windows overlooking the ocean or buried in some book or reading the NY Times.

On Sunday, we went to the Casper Community Breakfast and Flea Market. Mary and George set up a few tables in the grassy area at the side of the Casper Community Center. On the tables, we placed a few things they had lying around their garage to be sold at the market.
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I headed off for the community breakfast leaving them to their commercial endeavors. The community volunteer waitpersons sat me in a middle seat at a rectangular table seating six. I did not know anyone else at the table. Having as a result of my cancer therapy an upset stomach, lost most of my hearing and taste, and blurry eyesight, I had little expectation of enjoying either the food or the company. Suddenly across the room, I saw a nose — Not just any nose but a magnificent nose. The nose was appended to the face of one of the women volunteers waiting on the tables. As noses go, it was extremely well shaped. It was also huge as though insisting we all acknowledge its magnificence. It moved through the dining room like an icebreaker through the Arctic. I was enthralled.

As many of you know, I abhor the cult of small noses and people who have them. It is insulting to those individuals proud of their prominent noses to know that others are encouraged to cut theirs off so they may become fashionable. Why are tiny-tot noses so fashionable anyway? What are they hiding behind those tiny nostrils? How do they enjoy the full aromas of life around them? Where is the facial drama — the character — the pride?

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Now that is a Nose to Remember.

 

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One day, after a brief sojourn at my sister’s house on the Mendocino coast, I stopped at Booneville’s bakery and coffee shop for a breakfast. I ordered a coffee and a scone. As I sat down at a table by the window, I noticed a copy of the local newspaper that someone had left behind. I picked it up started reading as I ate my breakfast.

The newspaper’s masthead identified it as the Anderson Valley Advertiser. Its motto Fanning the Flames of Discontent sounded to me more like a call to scratch an itch than to a revolution. The paper also claimed that it was the Last Newspaper in California. I had no idea what that meant.

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The office of the Anderson Valley Advertiser and its Editor.

On the front page,  a lengthy article appeared entitled, The Courtroom As Porn Parlor. I surmised it would prove diverting and began to read. It reported on a trial recently concluded in Ukiah, the Mendocino County Seat.

It seems that a 15-year-old girl from the coastal hamlet of Point Arena was, as has been common with teenagers forever, unhappy with the behavioral restrictions imposed on her by her mother, a single mother, who worked nights and whose husband, the girl’s father, lived in another state. The mom, in the running for mother of the year, responded to her daughter’s complaints by threatening her wayward daughter with being sent off to live with her father with “all his rules.”

The daughter, as teenagers will, sought solace elsewhere. In this case, on the internet, and in social media, especially rap sites and chat rooms. Eventually, and as expected, her pleas and complaints elicited a sympathetic response from a seeming sympathetic 25-year-old young man, Thessalonian Love. Rap Star Love as he came to be known in the article. Rap Star resided at the time in the less than picturesque city of San Bernardino. One of Rap Stars earliest and perhaps most effective messages to our Point Arena ingenue intended, I assume, to soothe emotional turmoil experienced by the troubled young lady  declared:

“Yeah, I’m a guy, so show me them titties, bitch, and send me a ass shot!”

Responding eagerly to such endearments our ingenue and Thessalonian eventually agreed that he would travel to Mendocino, take her away from her drab existence besides the crashing surf, rolling hills and redwood forests and introduce her to the excitement of life in beautiful downtown San Bernardino.

Somehow, Mom got wind of this and when Love the Lothario presented himself at the girl’s school he was met not by the object of his affections but by the Sheriff who promptly arrested him on various charges of attempting to corrupt a minor and human trafficking.

The trial of Thessalonian Love aka Rap Star Love commenced with his lawyer’s opening statement to the jury that began:

“I don’t think 15-year-old girls still call it a pee-pee anymore,

and continued;

“As for oral copulation, we’ve had President Clinton discussing it on TV long before this little girl was even born. And if any of you have listened to rap music, like most 15-year-olds have, you know it’s not unusual, or foreign and, frankly, these girls not only call their vagina a pussy, they refer to themselves — their gender collectively, despite the progressive achievements of the feminist movement — by the same terminology.”

And further on;

“We don’t know what this girl and her friends had to say about this ‘rap star’ coming to see her, but we can imagine they were pretty excited.”

Indeed.

The trial lasted ten days mostly made up of reading into the record or listening to the recorded communications between the young lovers. I would like to imagine that the jurors, hearing the rap exchanges, saw the young lovers as modern versions of Romeo and Juliet’s, but I doubt it.

As fascinating and entertaining as this may have been, however, it was not the most interesting thing that happened during the trial. No, not by a long shot.

The defendant took the stand. Unusual though it may have been, it, in itself, was not particularly interesting. What was, was that after a day on the stand attempting to explain himself, Thessalonian, began to lose hope, so after court was closed for the day, as he was being returned to the jail by the bailiff, Rap Star Love escaped.

The entire police force of Ukiah, including its four-person SWAT team and its K-9 Corps, was called out to search for him. They searched for him all night to no avail. This was odd because as cities go Ukiah is distinctly modest. In fact, even as towns go, Ukiah would still not shed its modesty.
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The next morning, a bailiff on the way to the court spotted our Thessalonian standing motionless in front of the town’s Walgreen’s and took him into custody. After feeding him breakfast he promptly returned him to the courtroom to resume his testimony. Unfortunately, Rap Star, not having slept all night, would periodically nod off during questioning.

Later during the trial, after Love complained to his attorney bitterly and loudly (out of the hearing of the Jury of course) that he was not receiving the quality of defense for which he was not paying, his attorney was overheard responding:

“You haven’t listened to a single thing I’ve said, and now you are in so deep there’s hardly anything I can do to save you from even the weakest charges they have against you. So, please be quiet for a minute, and let me think how best to salvage this mess.”

Thessalonian Love was quickly convicted by the jury on all counts and before sentencing on those charges now awaits trial for escaping while in custody.

All I could think of as I finished reading the article was, “Who knew things like this happened among Mendocino’s rolling hill and vineyards?”

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The Pygmy Forest.

One day I decided to hike through Mendocino’s Pygmy Forest Reserve. Saving the Pygmy Forest was what got me into coastal resource preservation many years ago. A chance meeting with John Olmstead beneath the shadow of San Francisco’s Transamerica Pyramid caused me to spend the next fifteen years of my life trying to protect the coast of California. John, the grandson of Fredrick Law Olmstead of Central Park fame, is one of the unsung heroes of the conservation movement.

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To be perfectly honest, when he showed me the scrawny little trees that made up the forest, I was less than impressed. But, after passionately explaining to me how they came to be and the importance of preserving the Mendocino Ecological Staircase, as he so poetically described it, on which they grew, I threw my hat into the ring so to speak.
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John was my idol. There was little he would not do, no amount of money he would borrow with little hope of paying it back, no lie, no level of begging he would stoop to, no machinations of government and individuals he would not engage in, in order to preserve these forlorn little-twisted trees from disappearing beneath the bulldozers blade — all with no benefit to himself, no wealth, no fame, and few real friends.

 

The Lost Coast of Cape Mendocino.

On another day, I decided to drive up to Westport and into Cape Mendocino and the Lost Coast.
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Westport is a tiny town on a bluff above the Pacific supposedly riddled with ghosts. It is the last town before Highway 1 turns inland in order to avoid dark mountainous terrain of the Lost Coast. I always liked this stretch of the highway. It is one of those places in the world where calling it somewhere that time forgot is justified.
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Passing beyond the town and turning inland, I found one of the dirt roads that lead into the heart of Lost Coast.
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Over forty years ago Joe the Hippie and his flower child girlfriend driving a beat up 1950s sedan would also turn off here and brave the ruts and washouts to hike, camp, and smoke and then drive on through to Ferndale and beyond. We would sometimes pass through Whitethorn and Honeydew, two of the tiny towns hidden in the Cape Mendocino forests, where the cultivators of the major cash crop in the area, big fierce bearded men and long-faced and long dressed women, would stand in front of their clapboard home and silently stare at us as we drove by.
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The road I chose traversed two ridges and passed high above the surf. I traveled through dark redwood groves festooned with signs that warned “No Trespassing. Area Patrolled.” I chose this to mean “shoot on sight,” not because I believed I would be shot if I wandered about but to persuade myself not to park the car and go hiking into the forest just for spite — and get lost.

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I drove by a moss encrusted redwood that I called the “Old Man in the Tree” for obvious reasons.
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Finally, descending from the ridge, I entered a relatively broad valley with a creek (Usal Creek) running through it. A bridge crossed the creek into a sprawling primitive campground containing a few tents and some vans fitted out for camping.
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After parking my car at the edge of the black sand beach, I went for a hike through the woods that bordered the creek. As I sauntered along I ran into this:
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There were at least six bucks in the herd and two does. Not wanting to disturb them, I made my way back to the beach and walked along it until I feared the rising tide would cut off my return.
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After wandering around a bit and sitting on a log staring at the surf, I returned to my car and began the drive back to Mendocino. Along the way, I stopped at the store in Westport to buy a cream soda and a bag of potato chips.
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A Stroll along South Noyo Headlands Park.

On Saturday, we visited South Noyo Headlands Park. If anything, it is even more spectacular than the North Park.

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When they are connected in the next year or two the park system will extend almost 12 miles along the coast passing through several magnificent landscapes. I have no doubt this park is destined to become one of the greatest urban/rural oceanfront parks in the world.
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The Druid Sisters’ Tea Party.

That evening we attended the Druid Sisters Afro, Celtic, Belly Dance Tea Party at the Hill House in Mendocino. The group Soul Elixir, with Pilar Duran (daughter of the great jazz guitarist Eddie Duran) and Claudia Paige (who played drums for the Grateful Dead and other groups) was the first to perform.

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Pilar Duran

They were magnificent. The Second group the Druid Sisters (vocals, drums, and fiddle) followed with a marvelous fiddle player (Kathy Buys) and a strong-voiced singer with red hair that the princess in “Brave” would envy (Cyoakha O’Manion). Claudia Paige played the drums here also. Both groups also performed together while the belly dancers wound their way through the audience.

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Cyoakha O’Manion

Many of those attending the festivities were of a more advanced age and dressed like they thought Druids would dress — lots of beads and crystals, flowing clothing and even sandals on some. They also danced to the music with the undulating abandon I had last seen at the hippie encampment on the beach below the Mendocino bluffs over 40 years ago. It was great. One woman, perhaps even older than I, done up in a long flowing dress with a hunting knife hanging from her belt, danced the entire night or at least swayed about waving her hands like she was casting a spell on us all. My sister thought that with her long slender hands and knobby knuckles she was a Witch and not a Druid. I expressed no opinion on the matter.
IMG_1424The Druid Sisters and Soul Elixir Together on Stage.

 

The B. Bryan Wildlife Preserve.

Our veneration of nature having been reinforced by the Druids, we set off the following morning for Point Area and a 200-acre estate dedicated to endangered African hoofed animals.

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We toured the reserve in a safari vehicle, saw the grazing gazelle, antelope, zebra and giraffe herds, fed the giraffes carrots held in our mouths and learned a lot — that certain types of Zebra, are not only obnoxious, but they plan their births during the rainy season so that they could hide their foals from predators in the newly grown brush; all the things one can tell about the health of wild animals by examining their poop; and, that there are only 760 Rothschild Giraffes, the tallest on earth, left in the wild.
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Pookie and the Rothschild Giraffe.

As we left the preserve I thought California with its large open grasslands, the demise of its logging industry, and relatively strong environmental and land use laws could be a wonderful place for establishing large preserves in order to save many of the world’s endangered ruminants and perhaps some of the large predators.

SAVE THE ROTHSCHILD GIRAFFES.

 

Leaving Mendocino.

I spent my last few days here trying to figure out how I would occupy myself during the four days between when I had to leave here and when I was scheduled to return to El Dorado Hills. Camping for a night or two seemed attractive. I always liked short turns of camping. Many years ago I did a lot of it. I was never a “gear” person. Usually just throwing down a sleeping bag under a tree sufficed.

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Some mornings, instead of walking along the bluffs, I stroll along the beach beneath them where the Big River empties into the ocean.
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In the late 1960s and early 70’s when the hippie phenomenon was morphing into the counter culture this vast expanse of sand used to be the site of a hippie encampment. Makeshift tents and driftwood shelters sprung up overnight and disappeared just as suddenly. Music filled the air along with the smoke of campfires and weed. People danced naked and clothed. The air smelled of iodine, marijuana and patchouli. And the colors — tie-dye shirts, beads of many hues, macrame headbands, long flower print dresses, and real flowers everywhere, all dimming in memory.
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A flower someone left in the sand.

The sea has reclaimed much of the beach. The sea caves and coves where those too shy to copulate on the open sand retreated for privacy and where later more permanent encampments sprung up are gone now beneath the waves.IMG_1137

Thereafter, I usually walk under the Highway 1 bridge and along the sandy beach that runs up the river a short way.
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Once, I saw a woman swimming in the river with her dog
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I then usually amble up the old logging road that rises onto the bluffs above the river through shady redwood groves and sunny outlooks on the cliffs above the river.
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When I get tired, I retrace my steps until I reach a bench where I rest a while staring at the river, marshes and now and then boaters with their oars splashing until my reverie ends usually by another hiker walking by who insists on greeting me. I then walk back through the town to my sister’s house and take a nap.
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One of the things I notice on my walks is the evolution of the graphics on informational signs. During the early days of the Coastal Conservancy, I noticed the absence of anything other than bureaucratese in simple block letters. “Who would stop and read these,” I thought? “Would they take anything away from this?” So, I proposed creating informational signs designed by creative artists (not graphic designers) to be placed on our projects. No one agreed. Encouraged by this support I went ahead anyway, hired an artist who created a group of wonderfully attractive signs highlighting the flora and fauna that the sign described.
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Fort Bragg this week announced the competition for local artists to design the informational signs at Noyo Headlands Park and even the decorations on the bathrooms. On my walk through the Big River SMCA, I saw some well-designed informational signs containing interesting artwork. It pleased me to see that the idea has caught on.
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One slightly overcast day, I walked along the Fort Bragg bluffs from the railroad bridge to the beginning of the Mekerricer State Park Dunes. A strong breeze blew in from off shore roiling the surf and creating waves almost 20 feet high.
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I rested for a few moments at the dunes by the Snowy Plover nesting area before returning.
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Snowy Plovers?

One day I drove inland to walk a trail through the Pygmy Forest where my involvement with coastal protection began. But that is another story.
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With all those signs I encounter warning me of the danger from mountain lions as I walk along dark forest trails, I have to add another pathological fear to that of bears and bikers. Perhaps, I need someone

to explain why a frail elderly person on the verge of senility as he walks alone through the gloom of the woods, should not be afraid of those supposedly shy and gentle animals.

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A few sunny days on the Mendocino coast allows me to sip my morning coffee and enjoy the view:
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One day, I drove into Fort Bragg to have my tire repaired. Waiting for the repairs allowed me to do what I love doing best, wandering aimlessly. Among my wanderings, I visited the Noyo Headlands Park that the Agency I created and headed, the California Coastal Conservancy, helped to bring about.

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The Park represents to me an ideal use of an urban waterfront — an environmentally sensitive open park along the shorefront. I believe it will soon be considered one of the nation’s premier oceanfront park and restoration areas. Now if we can only get the City of Fort Bragg to post proper signage along PCH so that people can find it, it will be a boon to the City’s economic health and to the environment.
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I urge you to visit it and see if you agree with me.

The overcast skies and rain have returned. Still the walks along the bluffs are exhilarating — the churning surf battering the black cliffs below.

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Now and then I notice a tiny bit of color among the bushes as I walk by.
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One morning, the sun was out. My walk along the bluffs of the Mendocino Headlands took me to an area that, despite my almost 50 years of visiting here, I had not gone before. I felt a little like Kirk and Spock visiting a new world — except here there were no large breasted aliens with skin tight costumes, colorful body paint, and prominent dark eyebrows. What there was, however, were white crested waves pounding the bluffs and curling onto the black sand beaches hidden among the cliffs.
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Later, as the sun dropped toward the horizon, we strolled along the Headlands again.
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All this dramatic natural beauty began to irritate me. I longed for a sidewalk, curb and a gutter blocked up with urban refuse. So, after my morning walk, I fled north to Fort Bragg in the hope that I could find a dingy bar filled with out of work loggers or a cafe with the paint peeling off the walls where I could drink weak American coffee.

As I approached the town and circled the round-a-bout, I took the road that said, “No exit,” or something like that, since it agreed with what I was feeling. I drove up what John Olmstead called the Mendocino Ecological Staircase in hopes that I would find a forgotten tavern among the Redwoods. The homes, more shacks than homes, became shackier as I drove, the fences more home made and the “No Trespassing” signs more prevalent. I realized I was entering the zone that 20 or 30 years ago harbored the areas high-value cash crops. I soon came to the end of the road and retraced my steps down the Staircase.

At the edge of the city, another road stretched off to the East. This road promised to cross the mountains to Willits on Highway one. I suspected, since this was a numbered road, a roadhouse would exist somewhere along it. So, I drove again up the staircase until I reached a sign that announced a curvy road for the next 25 miles. I knew that roadhouses only existed on straight-a-ways and I decided to forgo the possibility of encountering the ghost of Patrick Swayze and returned to Highway 1.

After passing through the harbor in the hope I would find a fisherman’s dive with no luck, I drove into the back streets of Fort Bragg.
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I had just about given up when I spotted a place on a woebegone corner of the city that seemed to have some promise.
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I parked, went in and found what I was looking for. The twelve stools at the bar were filled with men and women, most of whom were my age or older. Nearly all of the men wore baseball caps and a few were dressed in work clothes. A woman with blond hair, who now would be referred to a naturally proportioned, presided behind the bar. Although I intended to order ginger ale, I decided to order the bar’s special amber ale instead. I felt it would be more appropriate. Much of the discussion around me involved the bar’s multiple Super Bowl pools whose mathematical basis was far beyond my comprehension.

A man sitting next to me knew Duke Snyder when they both lived in Compton. They would meet walking their dogs and discuss baseball and life while their dogs humped each other.

In the corner sat a man with dark skin and a magnificent beaked schnoz, I thought he was either Native American or Mediterranean based upon the size of his proboscis. I know schnozzes — we Italians revel in the potatoes or hatchets grafted onto the front of our faces. We believe it makes us look distinguished. I learned that during the 1950s, the beaked one pitched triple A ball for a team in South Carolina before his arm gave out. I was in heaven. Next to him sat a small dark woman with many tattoos who kept bouncing up and down running off to talk excitedly with someone else sitting at the bar.

Feeling happy, I ordered a second ale.

Later, more people showed up including a younger woman who seemed to be over six feet tall. She had long braided blond hair. She slammed down the drinks like she was born to it. Everyone seemed to know everyone else and appeared happy to be there or, at least, happier than being where they were before they got there.

I left after I finished my second ale because I wanted to be able to drive home and I had begun to feel the buzz. When I die, I want my ashes sprinkled on the floor of the place.

Later that night, we all returned to Fort Bragg because in was “First Friday” when all the galleries stay open until late at night. I bought an old used book that contained some interesting illustrations. We then had dinner at a Mayan Fusion restaurant in the harbor. It was quite good.

The next morning we hiked along the bluffs of Spring Ranch just south of the town of Mendocino. Spring Ranch is a Coastal Reserve created by California State Parks and the California Coastal Conservancy.
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It is an example of the type of project I had in mind when I wrote the Conservancy Concept into California’s Coastal Plan, shepherded the legislation through the legislature and administered the agency during its formative years. It not only removes the land from the vagaries of regulatory conflicts but begins to push back the impacts of prior land uses, ranching and the like, through restoration. At the time the Conservancy was proposed, restoration of environmental resources was not a high priority of the State and in the case of wetlands opposed by many in the environmental community as well.
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The Reserve is long and relatively narrow, stretching from PCH to the ocean for several miles. This type of public acquisition, small narrow units, along with the purchase undeveloped subdivisions along the coast were frowned upon by the State because of management and cost issues. Yet, we believed they were necessary if critical coastal resources were to be preserved and the goals of the Coastal Plan achieved. I am pleased to see that, in part through the efforts of the Conservancy, up and down the coast these objectives are now accepted.
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Although the several entrances are a little difficult to see, once you do, you can stroll down across the coastal terrace, along the bluffs and through a magnificent restored cypress grove. There are a few benches along the way where you can sit and watch the tumultuous surf crash of the rocks, and if the season is right, see whales migrating and seal pods roaming the waters and hauling themselves onto the rocks to sunbathe.
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The Reserve is an excellent counterpoint to the more urban Noyo Headlands Park a few miles north. You should visit both if you are in the area, and don’t forget to stop at Point Cabrillo lighthouse and park and the Mendocino Botanical Gardens two other Conservancy projects in the area I am proud of. And, of course, end your trip sipping the wines at Pacific Star Winery while sitting on Dad’s Bench watching the sun dip into the ocean.

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That afternoon, as I suggested above, we had a delightful picnic at Pacific Star Winery.
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I bought a new hat there also.IMG_1097

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One morning, we hiked along the bluffs above the ocean at Spring Ranch.

Spring Ranch is a Coastal Reserve on the coastal bluffs just south of Big River created by California State Parks and the California State Coastal Conservancy. Visiting it should be on your list of things to do whenever you travel along the Mendocino County coast.
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It is an excellent example of the type of project I had in mind when I wrote the Conservancy Concept into California’s Coastal Plan, shepherded the legislation through the legislature and administered the agency during its formative years. It not only removes the land from the vagaries of regulatory conflicts but also begins to push back the impacts of prior land uses, ranching and the like, through restoration. At the time the Conservancy was proposed, restoration of environmental resources was not a high priority of the State and in the case of wetlands opposed by many in the environmental community as well.
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The Reserve is long and relatively narrow, stretching from PCH to the ocean for several miles. This type of public acquisition, small narrow units, as well as the purchase  of undeveloped subdivisions along the coast was frowned upon by the State because of management and cost issues. Yet, we believed they were necessary if critical coastal resources were to be preserved and the goals of the Coastal Plan achieved. I am pleased to see that, in part through the efforts of the Conservancy, up and down the coast these objectives are now fully accepted by most governmental agencies and local land trusts as they go about the unending process of protecting and restoring California’s precious Coastal Resources.
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The several entrances into the Reserve are a little difficult to see from Highway 1. Once you find them you are in for a treat. Strolling down the path across the coastal terrace you reach the bluffs where the path follows the cliffs rising above the ocean and continuing through a magnificently restored cypress grove. There are a few benches along the way where you can sit and watch the tumultuous surf crash on the rocks and, if the season is right, see whales migrating and seal pods roaming the waters and hauling themselves onto the rocks to sunbathe.
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The Reserve is an excellent counterpoint to the more urban Noyo Headlands Park a few miles north. You should visit both if you are in the area, and don’t forget to stop also at Point Cabrillo Lighthouse and park and the Mendocino Botanical Gardens two Conservancy projects in the area I am quite proud of. And, of course, end your trip sipping the wines at Pacific Star Winery while sitting on Dad’s Bench watching the sun dip into the ocean.
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When we drafted the Coastal Plan over 40 years ago, we saw it not as a final product but as an ongoing process to preserve and restore the irreplaceable resources of California’s Coast. I am delighted to see The State Coastal Conservancy, an entity dear to my heart, and those that labored working for and with it, continuing to take a significant role in that endeavor.

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One day, I drove into Fort Bragg in Mendocino County to have my tire repaired. Waiting for the repairs allowed me to do what I love doing best, wandering aimlessly. Among my wanderings, I visited the wonderful Noyo Headlands Park.  Located on the bluffs rising above the waves breaking on the rocks below, the Park runs along the shoreline for several miles.  The California Coastal Conservancy, the Agency I created and headed, helped to bring the Park into existence. The Park represents to me an ideal use of an urban waterfront — an environmentally sensitive public park along the city’s shorefront. I believe it will soon be considered one of the nation’s premier oceanfront park and environmental restoration areas. Now if we can only get the City of Fort Bragg to post proper signage along PCH so that people can find it, it will be a boon to the City’s economic health and to the environment.
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I urge you to visit it and see if you agree with me.

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