Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Buyer of School Property Backs Out, County Considering Selling Mariposa Swimming Hole—Highlights from the Redwood Valley MAC Meeting

Mariposa Swimming Hole on Tomki Road (photo by Monica Huettl)

The Redwood Valley Municipal Advisory Council met on April 12, 2023 at 5:00 pm with a quorum of Members present, along with guest speaker Louisa Morris from the Coastal Conservancy; County Supervisor Glenn McGourty; Cathy Monroe, Mendocino County Climate Advisory Committee; Gizmo Henderson, citizen volunteer. Topics: More Info about the Great Redwood Trail; Mariposa Swimming Hole and County Parks may be on the chopping block due to budget concerns.

Public Comment

Carrie Shattuck announced that she is running for First District Supervisor in the 2024 election. Her email is Votecarrie2024@gmail.com. She has attended Board of Supervisors meetings for the past year to familiarize herself with the County government. MendoFever.com previously reported that MAC Board Member Adam Gaska is running for supervisor.

Redwood Valley resident, bike, and motorcycle enthusiast William Self announced that he is starting a Neighborhood Issues Resolution Support group. His hope is that people can talk out their neighborhood issues face-to-face with civility, rather than the heated emotion that is seen online. He is posting flyers around town. He wants to start a website with short video clips as examples of how to resolve disputes. William’s contact information is williamaself@yahoo.com or (707) 485-0867.

Gizmo Henderson commented on the Caltrans work on the new bridge in Calpella. It is designed with funnels to channel runoff off the pavement. He would like to see cisterns for the runoff, rather than having it go directly into the ground or river because in the event of a tanker spill, the toxic waste could be held in the cisterns, rather than going into the river. He also said there is too much blacktop on the Highway 20 interchange and not enough median space. Shattuck commented that it may be too late for changes, as the construction is already in progress.

Guest Speaker Louisa Morris of the Coastal Conservancy, one of the agencies funding the Great Redwood Trail

Morris is a former Mendocino County resident, now living in Sonoma County, and working on the Great Redwood Trail Plan. The GRT is a 316-mile-long rail trail that will eventually connect San Francisco Bay with Humboldt Bay. When complete, it will be the longest rail trail in the US. The rail corridor will be preserved by railbanking, a federal law that allows railroad corridors to be used as a trail, but preserved from other development, in case a railroad ever comes back to life. 

The GRT planners anticipate protecting and restoring the environment along the tracks and plan to do vegetation removal along the tracks to provide a fire break and emergency access route for first responders. The GRT will work with Cal Fire and local fire departments along the trail. There was a question from the audience about chemical weed killers. Answer: They do not anticipate using chemical weed killers, but rather will use work crews to clear brush. Supervisor Glenn McGourty suggested using goats for vegetation management. An audience member asked who will pay for the vegetation management. Morris replied that in the Willits section under construction, the GRT paid for it.

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The planners also want to preserve large trees, protect Tribal sites, clean up hazardous waste, and clean up the waterways along the trail. They anticipate providing fencing and landscape barriers to protect neighbors along the trail. Neighbors are also concerned about illegal camping and criminal activity along the trail. Morris said that problems mainly occur near the populated towns on the trail, not on the rural stretches. Sections of the trail will not be open until safety patrols and maintenance crews are in place. McGourty suggested camera surveillance and possibly charging users for trail use. Various agencies will provide safety patrol and maintenance. 

Neil Davis, Ukiah Community Services Director and Founding Member of the Ukiah Trails Group, spoke about trail use on the completed section in Ukiah. Because the section between Ukiah and Redwood Valley is mainly flat, riding a bike along the trail could be an alternative way to commute. The section between Hopland and Ukiah will be an alternative bike route to the very narrow East Side Road (Old River Road). There are various types of electric bikes. Davis encouraged the use of the type of e-bike that powers up when you pedal and stops producing power when the speed reaches 18 mph. There was a discussion of the danger of mixing e-bikes with pedestrians. Davis said everyone needs to use proper trail etiquette and there will be signs posted at the trail entrances.

The audience was invited to write suggestions on poster paper, or leave cards in a suggestion box. Some suggestions for the Redwood Valley section: 

  • Offer shuttle buses to wineries and casino
  • Property owners can provide “glamping” sites (State Senator Mike McGuire has introduced Senate Bill 620, not yet passed, to allow up to 9 short-term camping sites for tourists on private property, to be taxed by county Transfer Occupancy Taxes)
  • History displays (Black Bart and Jim Jones)
  • Tribal pow wows 

Gaska proposed a draft letter to the Ukiah City Council and staff asking that the RV MAC be notified of any plans for expansion of the trail out of Ukiah and into Redwood Valley. The MAC members voted to approve sending the letter on behalf of the MAC.

Update from Glenn McGourty, County Supervisor Board Chair 

Mariposa Swimming Hole on Tomki Road (photo by Monica Huettl)

Audience member Martha Barra publicly commented that she had attended the most recent Board of Supervisors meeting, and she wanted to let the citizens of Redwood Valley know that the Supervisors had discussed selling the Mariposa Swimming Hole on the Russian River. Mariposa is a small piece of land on the 13000 block of Tomki Road, owned by the County. McGourty confirmed that as part of the budget discussion, the supervisors had discussed possibly selling one or more of the County parks to save money on maintenance and liability insurance. Mariposa isn’t officially a park, but for many years it has been used as a community swimming hole. Barra expressed hope that a nonprofit group could purchase it for public use. Katrina Frey, MAC Treasurer, whose family winery is close to the Mariposa site, also expressed interest in this. Jini Reynolds, MAC Vice Chair, said, “It’s needed now more than ever. It’s one of the very few places to get cool in the summer, and it supports an amazing amount of wildlife.” There was a brief discussion of whether an entity could be formed as a subsidiary of the State Grange, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. The Redwood Valley Grange is a 501(c)(8) “Fraternal Beneficiary Society.” McGourty urged the community to “get creative” with regard to raising funds.

McGourty said the big theme at the Board of Supervisors meetings has been the budget. There has been a decline in most county income streams. Cannabis taxes haven’t produced income that was projected. The County is looking at selling surplus buildings and the county parks are also on the chopping block. He said, “It’s a perfect storm of deferred maintenance, loss of tax income, and inflation.” County CEO Darcie Antle is attempting to modernize the budget. Antle is crafting a budget to match the County’s Strategic Plan, which has not been done in the past. (Having official “plans” is often a requirement for grant funding). McGourty spent three days interviewing department heads in ad hoc budget meetings.

There was a discussion of Redwood Valley possibly forming a special parks district to preserve Lions and Mariposa Parks. Gaska commented that in the last election, not a single precinct in Redwood Valley voted to pass Measure P to fund the Fire Station. Measure P did pass because other county precincts voted for it. It is unlikely that Redwood Valley voters will support a tax increase to fund a park district, even though it would be a small property tax addition, around $50 per year.

Map of Lake County Parks (from the Lake County Government Website)

[Reporter’s Note: Looking at the 52 California County’s Parks and Rec websites revealed that the number of Mendocino County Parks (6 official county parks) is in the bottom 25% of all California counties. Only 13 counties had 6 or fewer parks. Of those 13, 10 counties had much smaller populations than Mendocino County. For a local example, here is a link to the sparse Mendocino County Parks webpage. In contrast, take a look at Lake County’s map of county parks and their parks master plan. Data from the US Census Bureau shows that Mendocino County has a population of approximately 89,783 with a median household income of $56,378. Lake County has a population of approximately 68,191 with a median household income of $53,399. With a smaller population and similar median household income, Lake County has Mendocino County beat in the number of county parks.]

Mendocino County Parks (from the Mendocino County Government Website)

Barra commented that the Economic Development Finance Corporation (EDFC), formed to promote business development in Mendocino and Lake Counties, has not brought in much business. McGourty said he has worked with the West Business Development Center to identify five areas for possible economic development:

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  • Internet connectivity and broadband to reach outlying, underserved areas
  • Vocational education and training for trades
  • Repurposing Ft. Bragg into the Blue Economy. Create a business park for ocean-centered businesses.
  • Use biomass from our forests to create hydrogen
  • Create green hydrogen and install hydrogen fueling stations for cars along the West Coast. The current electric cars use very expensive batteries. Hydrogen would be clean fuel and cheaper.

The County Cannabis Department is under new management. There is no understandable reason why progress has moved so slowly in approving permits, it should be a simple checklist.

Alternate Member Marybeth Kelly asked McGourty to follow up on the RV Grange’s request for release of funds that were requested months ago in connection with the kitchen remodel. She has asked McGourty to look into this for several months. 

Chair Dolly Riley asked McGourty whether Redwood Valley’s Revised Community Action Plan had been reviewed by the Planning Department. McGourty referred her to a contact at the Planning Department. Riley also asked whether the MAC Bylaws had been approved. McGourty referred her to the County Counsel’s office.

Update from Sheriff Matt Kendall

There was no update from the Sheriff this month.

RV-Calpella Fire Department Update

MAC Member Chris Boyd, who is also on the Board of the Fire Department, announced that the fire department meetings are open to the public. So far, they have not received any Measure P funds. The department expects to receive those funds next year. They were able to purchase much-needed equipment and pay for volunteer training programs using funds from the PG&E settlement. The volunteer training and equipment is expensive.

Water Education Standing Subcommittee

Mariposa Swimming Hole on Tomki Road (photo by Monica Huettl)

Gaska, who is also the Board President of the Redwood Valley County Water District, announced that Bree Klotter has been appointed to the Board. There is ag water available for frost protection. The District may be able to lift the 55-gallon per day limit on municipal water use. 

PG&E has been trying to get out of running the Potter Valley Project and there is serious talk of decommissioning Scott Dam at Lake Pillsbury. The Russian River Water Forum was formed to bring together interested parties on the Eel and Russian Rivers, to study the issues and come up with solutions. The Russian River water users want to secure water rights for water that comes from the Potter Valley Project.

Barra announced that the second well drilling workshop on new well drilling rules under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act will take place at Barra Winery on Monday, April 17 at 4:30 pm.

Development Review Standing Subcommittee. 

Subcommittee Member Kelly received a notice from Building and Planning of a proposed subdivision of a 4 plus acre property with the intent of building a home on the new parcel. After brief discussion, the Board voted not to comment or object to this building permit. 

Riley commented that we are still waiting to hear from B&P regarding finalization of the Redwood Valley Community Action Plan. The Board voted to approve Riley sending a letter to B&P on this.

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Redwood Valley School Property. 

On April 17, Ryan LaRue, CEO of Rural Communities Housing Development Corporation, replied to an email inquiry: “RCHDC has decided to not pursue the RV school site any further.” There have been no follow-up press releases to the Ukiah Unified School District’s March 9 press release announcing that Rural Community Housing Development showed interest as a potential buyer. 

Redwood Valley Grange Update

Reynolds reported that the Grange had a successful Easter Bank Sale and flea market. They may decide to hold a monthly flea market. 

Officers and Members Reports and Announcements. 

Riley announced that Felicia Smith from Sonoma Clean Power will be a guest speaker at the May 10 meeting. Bring your PG&E bills and she can explain the meaning of all the terms on the bill.

The board voted to change to start time for the MAC meetings to 5:30 pm, at least through the summer months. Alternate Member Fran Laughton said that the meetings should take no more than an hour and a half, rather than the current 2 hours. Riley asked the other Board members to help keep the speakers on track and within their time limits.

Frey, a founding Member of the RV MAC, announced that she would be stepping down from the MAC, but will continue in the position of Treasurer until a new Treasurer is appointed.

Reynolds announced that it takes an hour to set up the computer equipment, Zoom link, tables and chairs before each MAC meeting. Going forward she will not be able to handle this because of physical limitations. Someone else needs to take over this duty. She would like to see a younger, more diverse MAC Board. 

Next Meeting is May 10, 2023, 5:30 p.m. at the Redwood Valley Grange, or via Zoom, and is open to all.

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  1. Local citizens have been maintaining the swimming hole since the county caution-taped it after the fire. What happened to all the money our fire got for the county?

  2. Not to be a buzzkill, but aren’t a majority of Lake County parks like 1 acre on flat, mostly treeless land?

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Monica Huettl
Monica Huettl
Mendocino County Resident, Annoying Horse Girl.

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