Hendy Woods, Continued

by Kathy Bailey, February 21, 2012

It’s been an event-filled two months since the December 7 meeting of the Hendy Woods Community. The heartwarming upside of the state’s mind-boggling decision to designate Hendy Woods State Park for closure has been the overwhelming public support to keep it open. Community members have each contributed in their own unique ways.

Heidi Knott, Leah Collins, and Tim Glidewell created a terrific 14-minute film, Defending Our Legacy: Hendy Woods about our effort. It features you, your friends and neighbors talking about why Hendy Woods is so important to Anderson Valley. You can find it on our website and our Facebook page, and we hope you will “share” it with your friends near and far.

The Cahn-Bennett family of Navarro Vineyards has been kind enough to offer their tasting room property for an Earth Day fundraiser barbeque on Sunday, April 22 from noon to 3 PM. Tickets are available now on our website.

The Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association is providing us an information table at the Pinot Fest, May 18-20, and we will have an item to auction.

Just this week, we have been provided the opportunity to create a fundraiser on the afternoon and evening of July 11 using the Mendocino Music Festival tent at Mendocino Headlands State Park. This is both exciting and challenging.

Local businesses have provided pledges of support, and generous individuals have made donations to support our activities. The Anderson Valley Community Service District agreed to act as our fiscal agent so we can accept tax-deductible donations while we are waiting for the IRS to grant us our 501c3 non-profit tax status. These contributions allow us to continue to take every necessary step to keep Hendy Woods open. There are three ways to help financially:

1. Make a formal pledge of money. We are accumulating these pledges to show the Parks Department we have the financial support we need to help them keep Hendy Woods open.

2. Make a tax-deductible contribution by writing a check made out to the Anderson Valley Community Services District (CSD) with a notation on the check that it is for Hendy Woods. Please send the checks to us, not directly to the CSD.

3. Make a non-tax-deductible contribution by writing a check made out to the Hendy Woods Community.

Mail can go to our new Post Office Box 443, Philo, CA 95466. We expect to have a Donate button on our website soon that will allow contributions to be made by credit card. Donations are needed to support the Hendy Woods Community and to fill the gap between revenues and expenses at Hendy Woods. Everything we do is being done by volunteers.

The California Secretary of State accepted the Hendy Woods Community (HWC) as a non-profit corporation. We have adopted bylaws and elected board members and officers for the organization.

In early January, we submitted a partnership operating agreement to the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) that proposes to keep some paid staff members, substitute volunteers for many of the seasonal employees, help DPR raise revenues at the park, and provide donations to underwrite operations at Hendy Woods so it can be run without subsidy from the state General Fund. We await feedback.

Volunteers keep stepping forward to help. Our webmaster Marco Heithaus created our website and keeps it current. Pearl Baseshore worked with HWC Secretary Deanna Apfel to create our promotional card, which is now available in many local businesses. Tina Walters helped with printing contacts. HWC Fifth Officer Janet Anderson, Treasurer Kate Castagnola, and Monica Landry are working on the Earth Day BBQ. Board Member Mike Rielly is working on fund-raising with John Scharffenberger and Judith Dolan. Judith, Jill Hannum, and Glynnis Jones are keeping an eye out for grants. Vice-Chair Linda MacElwee and board members Lauren Keating, Glad Donohue, Nikola Milojevich, Cyd Bernstein, Keevan Labowitz, Pam Laird, and Sophie Otis, provide valuable advice and counsel on the myriad issues we face. Board Chair Kathy Bailey makes an effort to stay proactive while trying to focus on what often feels like a moving target. So many others have also been involved.

The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors has written letters when needed. Sheriff Tom Allman recently wrote to Parks Department Director Ruth Coleman confirming his previous offer to commit law enforcement personnel to policing the parks if doing so would help keep them open. The Anderson Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association could not be more supportive. The Mendocino Area Parks Association makes every effort to keep us informed. The State Parks Foundation and its campaign arm Save our State Parks has from day one generously provided us with posters, networking, and insight into the Parks Department, the Legislature, and the Budget process. Staffers at the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife are continually alert to news and opportunities, and staffers at the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee have provided reality checks at crucial junctures. There is a lot going on at the Legislature and staffers keep the whole place running.

Assemblymember Jared Huffman introduced Assembly Bill (AB) 1589, along with Asm. Wes Chesbro and Asm. Roger Dickenson. It authorizes the Parks Department to achieve budget reductions by implementing efficiencies, and increasing revenue collection instead of closing parks, and limiting the number of full park closures to 25 between 2112-2116 unless the Legislature authorizes more. The bill also adds criteria to be used when evaluating parks for closure, including several that would benefit Hendy Woods. It also creates a fund to be used as seed money for efforts to increase revenue, creates a state parks license plate, and allows for purchase of a state park pass when filing a tax return. Other provisions are also focused on enhancing revenue.

Assemblymember Chesbro sent us the following statement on February 6: “As you are aware, Assemblyman Jared Huffman and I joint authored AB 1589, known as the California State Parks Stewardship Act of 2012 which was introduced this week. There are many important provisions of this measure including encouraging the formation of a state compact that guarantees ongoing funding for parks while requiring the Department of Parks and Recreation to enhance revenues as well. It would also modify the criteria that the Department is required to consider in determining park closures. With bills like this we have a chance to keep important parks like Hendy Woods open. It is an important resource for Anderson Valley. I have enjoyed visiting it many times and hope to continue doing so in the future.”

Senator Noreen Evans introduced two Senate Bills (SB). SB 974, requires DPR to develop and implement a park closure review process in the future that includes specified elements, including economic impacts on local communities. It also requires an annual review of the status of closed parks. On February 14, Senator Evans introduced SB 1078, a bill that would create a plan to develop long-term funding for all California state parks. The “State Parks Revenue Generation Act” would utilize money already owed to the state through the State Lands Commission (SLC) from delinquent rents and undervalued state land leases. In the press release announcing the bill, Senator Evans said: “My legislation will enable the state to collect money taxpayers are owed and reinvest those funds in parks so they are never again on the chopping block.”

All of these bills are likely to be amended in the future. If you wish, you can go to www.leginfo.ca.gov  and “subscribe” to the bills. You will receive e-mail notification when actions are taken on these bills.

How do these bills help us now? There are only two ways to get Hendy Woods off the park closure list: 1- Have an operating proposal accepted or 2- An allocation in the budget of more money for parks. These bills will be used to try to convince Governor Brown that he ought to allocate more money into the Parks budget before July 1, at least on a temporary basis pending the outcome of the tax measures the Governor and others are submitting for the November ballot. Of course many issues are competing for the Governor’s attention and revenues into the state General Fund continue to be disappointingly short of projections. On the plus side, decision-makers seem to have heard our message about the economic importance of Hendy Woods to the community. If money shows up for parks, we are well positioned for favorable consideration.

You may have heard about the situation we faced in January when DPR went to the Public Works Board (PWB) for authorization to post Requests for Proposals for private concessionaires to run bundles of parks. Hendy Woods was in a bundle that included Russian Gulch, Westport-Union Landing, Standish-Hickey, all in Mendocino County, and Austin Creek in Sonoma County. Assemblymember Huffman and Senator Evans both vigorously objected to the way the RFP was structured, which would give private concessionaires a huge advantage over non-profit proposals that were focused on a single park. Non-profits also bombarded the PWB. Fortunately, the PWB had erred by not providing notice to required reviewers, particularly Senator Evans, and the PWB staff pulled the item off their January 19 agenda. This provided time to clarify the request so when the item reappeared on the February 1 agenda, Parks committed to developing the RFPs to ensure that potential bidders will not be required to include all parks to be eligible for consideration, and a Parks spokesman stated at the hearing that if a suitable proposal from a credible non-profit had been submitted, it would be given preference over a for-profit concessionaire. As of February 18, DPR had not yet posted the Requests for Proposals.

Will the proposal submitted by the Hendy Woods Community be looked on favorably by the Parks Department? We do not know, but we are hopeful. DPR seems to have put proposal decision-making on hold for a time. In early February, it issued a Workbook for non-profits to use when creating proposals and it has scheduled a series of workshops statewide to assist non-profits in creating credible proposals. Locally, a workshop will be held on February 23 in Ft. Bragg and we will be there.

Additionally, the Save-the-Redwoods League is providing us with technical assistance to come up with long-term solutions that will allow Hendy Woods to stay open on a sustainable basis. A close review is underway. Since 1918, the League has been working to protect and restore redwood forests and to connect people with their peace and beauty. They have been responsible for adding more than 204 acres to the 845-acre Hendy Woods State Park. We thank the League for its long-term commitment, its flexibility in implementing its mission, and its willingness to assist us at this critical time.

People have really pulled together and your support has truly been sustaining. We continue to be cautiously optimistic that Hendy Woods will stay open.

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