Save Hendy Woods Regroups

by Mark Scaramella, December 14, 2011

 

More than a hundred locals, most of them gray-haired, attended last Wednesday’s meeting to save Hendy Woods State Park.

Most of the under-60 people on hand were the young persons who'd kicked the campaign off — Keevan Labowitz, Charlie Paget-Seekins, Cyd Bernstein, and Polly Bates. Kathy Bailey sat at the head table with the younger organizers and provided some Hendy Woods info and history that is not generally known.

The Park is a sprawling 810 acres, offers the most disabled-accessibility in the county, has the only decent public off-road hiking in the Valley, and maintains the only significant public river access there is in the Anderson Valley. Approximately 38,000 people per year visit the park, many of whom pay to stay overnight.

Thanks to some old Santa Rosa Press Democrat clippings saved by the late Jack Clow, and freshly retrieved by Jack's Valley Store's present owners, some essential early Hendy Woods history is about to become more widely known. Ms. Bailey will be writing about that history for your beloved community newspaper soon. It will be no surprise to anyone that the legendary Valley schoolteacher and self-taught botanist, Blanche Brown, backed up by the formidable ladies of the early Unity Club, were instrumental in getting the property dedicated as a public State Park in 1963 after decades of work.

These days, according to information from Regional Parks Superintendent Loren Rex, the Park costs about $468,000 per year to operate but takes in about $239,000 in gate fees.

Bailey says that the Save Hendy group's primary goal is to pressure the State to rescind the announced closure by helping the State Parks Department operate the Park at a lower cost. Consensus opinion recognizes that total management of Hendy is beyond the capacities of our scant population, talented and wealthy as it is.

Investigation by Ms. Bailey has revealed the shabby machinations that led to the announced closing of most state parks in the state with Mendocino County being hit especially hard. A few State Parks bureaucrats had met behind closed doors in Sacramento where they drew up a list of the rural parks not blessed with the volume of public support enjoyed by the state parks in heavily populated urban and suburban areas of California, mostly in southern California. Rural Mendo was, of course, low priority by this simple-minded standard. And the bureaucrats destroyed their meeting notes. Even our normally somnolent state assemblyman, Wes Chesbro, has said he intends to, well, do what he always says he'll do — look into the matter and do “everything that he can.” Assemblyman and newly minted Congressional candidate Jared Huffman also claims to be on the case.

Ms. Bailey said that there wasn't time given the present closure schedule to propose new state taxes which could save Hendy in the short term. She said she had already been in touch with Mendocino Redwood Company chief forester Mike Jani for some kind of assistance, but that she had not yet been in touch with Doris Fisher, widow of the late Don Fisher, who owns most of the timberland in Anderson Valley.

Bailey also noted, to the disappointment of some attendees, that Hendy Woods is not one of the parks which receives “Land and Water Conservation” federal grant monies which would have required it to stay open as a condition of continued funding. She also pointed out that the database containing the people who have visited the park — who might be approached for support — is maintained in Canada under a State Parks contract! Hendy Woods organizers, posting themselves at the entrance to Hendy, are trying to provide information about the looming closure to Park visitors, but this time of year few people are roaming the redwoods.

Now calling themselves the “Hendy Woods Community Alliance,” Hendy's defenders are preparing a proposal to the Parks Department to help manage, operate and fundraise to keep Hendy open. They are looking for volunteers to do such support tasks as trail and facilities maintenance, interpretive walks and presentations, fundraising and publicity to keep Hendy-generated tourist dollars in Anderson Valley — and many of those at last Wednesday’s meeting signed up. They are also looking for help with grant writing, and preparation and placement of information at the park's entry kiosk. One of the main objectives is to keep the park open by applying political pressure on the state representatives.

Supervisor Dan Hamburg suggested the names of several state officials he thought might be helpful, all of whom Ms. Bailey had already been in touch with. Hamburg also noted that the state appears to be approximately $3.5 billion behind in revenues this fiscal year, making Plan B, local operation of the park in some way or degree, an option we may be forced to consider.

Last week the Hendy Woods Community Alliance posted on their facebook page (“Hendy-Woods-Keep-It-OPEN”): “Thanks to the 100 or so folks who showed up at the Grange last Wednesday night. So many people signed up to volunteer at the park or raise money it seems increasingly likely we will be able to present a proposal to keep Hendy Woods open. Of course, we still believe the Park should never have been put on the closure list to begin with!”

To contact the organizers with questions or offers of support, email occupyhendywoods@gmail.com or keephendyopen@gmail.com.

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