River Views

by Malcolm Macdonald, September 3, 2013

The State Parks project to remove the remnants of the old Ten Mile Haul Road is a boondoggle. For those who may have forgotten, the common definition of boondoggle is: to do work of little or no practical value merely for the appearance of looking busy.

On the other hand, the claim that a trail must be maintained on the site of the old haul road is a specious one as well, not founded on historical fact or use. The simple truth about the 2.5 miles of road remnant is that it lies in an area where hardly anyone hikes, rain or shine, winter, spring, summer or fall. About three weeks ago I walked with three other intrepid coast “old-timers” from the Highway One bridge at Ten Mile River down to the haul road. The trail that avoids slogging over sand dunes to the haul road is almost overgrown and severely under-used. The weather was postcard perfect on an August weekend. Beyond the parking lot we did not meet another soul until we strolled within a couple hundred feet of Ward Avenue. I have hiked this same stretch since childhood, encountering fellow travelers grows rarer as the years pass. The exceptions have invariably been people walking along the shoreline.

From the mouth of Ten Mile River to Ward Avenue, from the shoreline to where the expansive, sandy dunes are bordered by non-native stands of eucalyptus is now pretty much state property. Most tourists and most coast residents don’t even know how to get there. If they do know that Ward Avenue leads westward to an easily accessed beach, 99% of those beach users do not venture more than a few hundred feet north along the shore let alone go out on to the dunes to the east. Even the trail to one of the hidden jewels of local sightseeing, the lake surrounded by these dunes, is so little used that one has to have prior knowledge about where to strike out east from the shore in order to find it. The four of us who went out tromping the dunes on August 17th did find the lake, but it isn’t easy unless you’ve been there before.

The hidden lake in the dunes was once the property of John Ross II. A century or so ago, he may have dammed what was once a smaller pond to make it bigger. Those few who do trek across the expanding dunes can spot the fences where the Rosses ran cattle and hundreds of sheep. Most of that fencing has been buried by sand, which leads back to the haul road removal. Segments of the haul road just south of Ten Mile River are still intact, only slightly scarred by time and weather, but intermittent sections are buried under several feet of sand. Where is State Parks going to draw the removal line: will it only remove that which is visible now then skip over the buried portions to the next exposed section? If State Parks plans to pull up the buried sections, much environmental disturbance will ensue from the equipment needed to do so.

As is plainly clear, the sea, sand, and a mere thirty years of time have already disposed of much of the haul road. If State Parks were totally true to its expressed mission it would have long ago gone through the dunes sifting out every tiny particle of the southern part of the haul road because that is where hundreds of feet of the old logging road has been dispersed.

Leave it alone, walk on the beach, and let time do its thing.

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