Occupy Hendy Woods 2.0

by Mark Scaramella, January 18, 2012

Agreeing that “reality has kicked in,” Kathy Bailey appeared before the Anderson Valley Community Services District's Budget Committee last Wednesday to discuss the looming closure of Hendy Woods State Park, Anderson Valley's premier tourist attraction. The “Hendy Woods Community,” Bailey said, has submitted a formal proposal to the State Parks Department to “provide volunteers, revenue enhancement and additional funding sufficient to allow the Department of Parks and Recreation to operate Hendy Woods State Park at no net cost to the state.”

This proposal begins with its executive summary: “The Hendy Woods Community Inc. proposes to create an alternative to park closure by providing volunteers, financial contributions and revenue enhancements sufficient to allow the Department of Parks and Recreation to run Hendy Woods at no net cost to the state general fund. The following paid seasonal positions at Hendy Woods will be replaced by volunteers: two park aides, two maintenance aides, one maintenance assistant. Hendy Woods Community will assist with fee collection, be responsible for trail maintenance, assist with maintenance of structures, provide docent/interpretive services, and will raise funds and provide revenue enhancements sufficient to meet all normal DPR expenses in excess of fees collected at Hendy Woods.”

The proposal goes on to point out that nearly 50,000 visitors annually visit Hendy Woods, contributing significantly to our “tourist dependent community” of 3200 people “If,” in the immortal words of the late Smokey Blattner, “you beat every body out of the bushes.” A number of those 3200 residents are part-time, occasional, hermitic, or on the run from the law. But when polled they unanimously support Hendy Woods being open.

The proposal to assume local responsibility for the park continues: “Within the last five years the very extensive water system has been rehabilitated to the point where it is currently functioning well. The septic leach lines have been recently cleared. A new wheelchair accessible bathroom and shower facilities have recently been completed. With the very minor exception of one outhouse roof in the Day Use area, the campsites, water access points, bathrooms, cabins, visitor center, park access kiosk and other facilities have been well maintained. Eliminating public use of these facilities and allowing these facilities to fall into disrepair would waste this recent investment of state funds.”

“The Anderson Valley Volunteer Fire Department's principle firefighting water access point for the north end of Anderson Valley, the Valley's largest population concentration outside of Boonville, is installed inside the park near the RV septic dump station, according to Anderson Valley Fire Captain Roy Laird. It offers a virtually limitless water supply and good pressure for firefighting.”

Among the negative economic impacts that would result from the closure of Hendy Woods are loss of affordable camping, reduced wine sales and loss of jobs at The Valley's numerous tasting rooms, the end of handy public access to the Navarro River, reduced attendance at local summer events such as the world music festival and the County Fair. [Closure would] “imperil the Anderson Valley Brewing Company's Beer Fest which is the single largest annual source of money for many nonprofits in the Valley.”

The proposal sums up, “Anderson Valley has demonstrated its commitment to working with the Department of Parks and Recreation to keep Hendy Woods open by sending numerous letters to decision makers, attending a wide variety of events and volunteering to work at the park and raise money. We understand the nature of the commitment we are making and have deliberately avoided plans that do not seem feasible, such as a complete takeover of the park. We are volunteering for duties that we can sustain for at least two years. Volunteers have already signed up to perform the functions we propose to perform. Fundraising is already underway. Anderson Valley is highly motivated to help keep Hendy Woods open.”

The rest of the proposal is formatted as a draft contract from Hendy Woods Community to the Parks Department.

Also included is a likely budget showing current costs and savings that would accrue from local monetary and volunteer contributions. It is not clear how much of the regional parks overhead cost is attributable to Hendy Woods, so those numbers, if they apply, are excluded. Effective fee collection, as Ms. Bailey said, by local volunteers, would produce additional revenues.

For the time being Hendy Woods Community does not expect to solicit cash donations, but to instead rely primarily on pledges from local people, businesses and organizations pending approval of application for nonprofit status.

The CSD's Budget Committee voted unanimously to recommend to the Community Services District Board that the CSD act as sponsor for the organization until the nonprofit status is approved. If approved by the Board, the CSD would handle the small amounts of donated money associated with the nascent effort to somehow keep Hendy open. Ms. Bailey agreed to prepare basic paperwork for the district to ratify as soon as possible.

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