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Mill Bend

Redwood Coast Land Conservancy announces that
MILL BEND IS IN CONSERVATION HANDS!
Rainbow Over Mill Bend: photo by Peggy Berryhill

photo by Peggy Berryhill

The interim purchase of the Mill Bend property will enable the community to protect and restore the estuary and wetlands, which are critical habitat for many species of fish and wildlife, and at the same time will provide opportunities for riverfront trails and better river access for fishermen and paddlers while protecting the river from off-road vehicles and other damage.

The Mill Bend property consists of two riverfront parcels totaling 112 acres and includes the Mill Bend, a parcel west of the Highway One bridge, and the Lower Mill parcel which fronts the estuary along the river on the east side of the Highway One bridge and connects with the Gualala Arts property.

FACTS ABOUT MILL BEND

Hearn Beach

Mill Bend is a 53-acre parcel situated along the Gualala Estuary west of Highway One. Securing this scenic property will provide an opportunity to extend the California Coastal Trail south from the Gualala Bluff Trail through Mill Bend and on to the Sonoma County Regional Park and The Sea Ranch.

The Upper Mill parcel is a 59-acre property east of Highway One which extends from the river to the Gualala Arts Center. The former mill site area on the bluff top is currently zoned for planned mixed commercial and residential use. Securing the property will ensure that the site will be preserved for its conservation values rather than used for commercial development and will provide greater community access to the river.

The Gualala River Estuary provides an important freshwater environment for young steelhead, a small Coho salmon population, the Gualala roach, and other fish species. Red-legged frogs, seals, river otters, osprey and a pair of bald eagles are among the many wildlife species that live along the river. The purchase of the Mill Bend property will forever protect this valuable estuary and provide opportunities for restoration of critical habitat for salmonids and other fish.

Public Access The riverbank has provided historic public access to the river in the past. Unfortunately, truck and OHV use in the willow wetlands and on the gravel banks has degraded the riverbed. Purchase will allow improvements to be made to protect the environmentally sensitive habitat of endangered and threatened species and will provide for responsible public access. The Mill Bend property includes 13 acres on the south bank of the river directly adjacent to the Sonoma County Gualala Point Regional Park. Its purchase would allow the existing park boundaries to be extended to the estuary.

Potential Future Expansion As the gateway to the Gualala River, Mill Bend is a key piece in the long-term plan for the Gualala River Park envisioned by the community to eventually acquire other property along the river in order to further conservation and restoration efforts in the watershed.

Conservation Partners In late 2017, when the two key parcels along the Mill Bend in the Gualala River became available for sale for the first time in 70 years, RCLC and other local conservation groups formed the Mill Bend Coalition to find a way to acquire this property and forever preserve the natural features of the scenic gateway to the Gualala River watershed. The conservation buyers of the Allemall Foundation set up a Gualala River Park LLC to enable the foundation to hold the property while RCLC raised the funds needed for its permanent protection. Mendocino Land Trust took an early lead in working with RCLC to identify potential funders and to set up the necessary environmental testing of the site. As the project moved forward, RCLC has taken the lead role in working with the Allemall Foundation and will lead the community effort to fund the purchase and stewardship of the property.

Contributions RCLC is seeking funds for the purchase and stewardship of Mill Bend. Contributions can be made to the Redwood Coast Land Conservancy via its website at www.rclc.org or by sending a check to P.O. Box 1511, Gualala, CA 95445

The Mill Bend project is endorsed by members of our local community and by the following organizations:

  • Sonoma Land Trust
  • Mendocino Land Trust
  • Friends of the Gualala River
  • California Native Plant Society
  • Gualala Municipal Advisory Council
  • Lynda Hopkins, Board of Supervisors Sonoma County
  • Sonoma County Regional Parks District

ICO Mill Bend Article - October 11, 2019
Mill Bend purchased by conservation buyer
By W.W. Keller
news@mendonoma.com | October 11, 2019

Now under conservation, the Mill Bend property extends from the Gualala Point Regional Park in Sonoma County to the Gualala Arts Center in Mendocino County, helping to protect the Gualala River estuary and opening the possibility of an extensive trail system with public access. Photo courtesy Redwood Coast Land Conservancy.

Mill Bend, the 102-acre scenic property at the mouth of the Gualala River, has been purchased for $1.8 million by anonymous donors through the Allemail Foundation, a small private charity in Liber- tytown, Maryland. The foundation has agreed to hold the property on an interim basis for two years
to give Redwood Coast Land Conservancy
time to raise funds from grants and donor contributions needed for the permanent conservation and stewardship of the properties.

The acquisition of the property was announced Wednesday bythe RCLC, which has considered Mill Bend a high priority since it first went on the market in 2017.

Approximate boundaries of the Mill Bend and Upper Mill parcels superimposed on an aerial photo. Graphic courtesy Kennedy and Associates.

"The acquisition of Mill Bend is a once in a lifetime opportunity that will preserve the scenic beauty and critical habitat of the Gualala River estuary forever and will open the way for other future acquisitions to protect the Gualala River watershed," said RCLC board member Kathleen Chasey. "I am very excited to start the planning for this amazing project that will benefit everyone in our community."

The purchase of the Mill Bend properties will enable the community to protect and restore the estuary and
wetlands, which are critical habitat for many species of fish and wildlife, and at the same time will provide opportunities for riverfront trails and better river access for fishermen and paddlers while protecting the river from offroad vehicles and other damage, according to the RCLC.

The Allemail Foundation set up a Gualala River Park LLC to enable the foundation to hold the property while RCLC raises the funds needed for its permanent protection. Mendocino Land Trust took an early lead in working with RCLC to identify potential funders and to set up the necessary environmental testing of the site.

The Conservancy will now begin a drive to raise $2.4 million, including $1.8 million to repay the foundation and $600,000 to fund stewardship of the land as it is opened to the public, said Chasey, who is heading up stewardship planning.

"One of our top priorities," said Chasey, "is to work with the California State Coastal Conservancy and the Coastal Commission to look at the various options to extend the California Coastal Trail along the river."

Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, who has supported conservation of the property since it came on the market in 2017, could hardly contain her enthusiasm. "I'm thrilled," she said. "This feels like the missing piece of the puzzle. There are tremendous opportunities for the public, including river access and trail connectivity. We will definitely be getting [Sonoma County] Regional Parks out there and doing all we can to support these conservation activities."

The Conservancy has organized a Mill Bend Technical Advisory Committee of local residents and area experts who will develop a phased plan for the preservation and restoration of the Gualala River estuary and uplands. The plan will include trails and river access points for community recreation. Chasey said the RCLC hopes to have an idea of what the trail will look like by the time of the first community forum, which she said will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 5, at a time and place to be announced, to share initial plans for Mill Bend and to hear ideas from the community.

The property consists of two parcels, a 53-acre Mill Bend parcel west of the Highway 1 bridge and a 59-acre Lower Mill parcel, which fronts the estuary along the river on the east side of the Highway 1 bridge where it connects with the Gualala Arts property, providing opportunities for an extended trail network. Protected property now runs from Gualala Point Regional Park in Sonoma County through the Mill Bend in Mendocino County to the Gualala Arts Center.

As the gateway to the Gualala River, Mill Bend is a key piece in the longterm plan for the Gualala River Park envisioned by the community to eventually acquire other property along the river in order to further conservation and restoration efforts in the watershed, Chasey said.

According to the RCLC, the Gualala River Estuary provides an important freshwater environment for young steelhead, a small Coho salmon population, the Gualala roach, and other fish species. Red-legged frogs, seals, river otters, osprey and a pair of bald eagles are among the many wildlife species that live along the river.


ICO Mill Bend Article - October 11, 2019
Mill Bend public meeting draws big, enthusiastic crowd
By W.W. Keller
Copyright Independent Coast Observer
news@mendonoma.com | November 8, 2019

A capacity crowd attending the RCLC briefing on next steps with the Mill Bend conservation project. Photo by Robin Applegarth

The Gualala Community Center was overflowing with interested local residents when the Redwood Coast Land Conservancy held a public meeting Tuesday on next steps in the funding and development of the Mill Bend parcel. The Conservancy acquired the 112-acre Mill Bend property in October with the assistance of the Allemali foundation in Libertyville, Maryland. John Walton, an advisor to the RCLC, said the property, which has been the site of several lumber mills, had not changed hands in 60 years.

RCLC president Laurie Mueller told the enthusiastic crowd that the Mill Bend project was "the gateway" to the RCLC vision of a Gualala River Park that would one day extend seven miles from the Highway 1 bridge in Gualala along the west side of The Sea Ranch to the twin bridges at Valley Crossing.

The Mill Bend is the fourth property the RCLC has ushered into conservancy. The other properties, all situated along the coast, are the Gualala Bluff Trail, which is part of the California Coastal Trail, Cook's Beach and Hearn Gulch.

The conservancy created the Gualala River Park, LLC, for the purpose of holding the Mill Bend property until it raises $1.8 million to repay the Allemall Foundation and $600,000 to support stewardship of the property in perpetuity, including restoration of the land and improvements like parking, picnic areas, trails, public restrooms and the creation of an environmental research and education facility.

Mill Bend Project Director Kathleen Chasey said the organization hopes to be able to repay $1,8 million to the Allemall Foundation within two years and possibly earlier. Initial contacts with various state and federal entities that fund conservation projects, Chasey said, have been very encouraging. "When you have a salmonic stream, and are given money [to conserve it], it puts a smile on everyone's face."

She said trails to be constructed on the Mill Bend site may eventually connect with the Gualala Bluff Trail and trails through the Gualala Arts Center property, but careful evaluation and planning is first necessary because much of the property is fragile wetland. The Conservancy will also have to engage in a permitting process with Sonoma County and the Coastal Commission.

While the RCLC is the lead actor in the acquisition and development of the Mill Bend property, Chasey said, they have been in close consultation with many other organizations including the Mendocino Land Trust, the Sonoma Land Trust, Sonoma Regional Parks, California Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Coastal Commission and the California Natural Resource Agency, among others. The Mendocino Land Trust played an important role early in the acquisition process, Chasey said.

Chasey outlined many conservation goals for the audience. The main goal, she said, is the permanent protection of 112 acres of estuary and the lower Gualala River as well as protection of threatened and endangered species that populate the property. The project, she said, would also restore and enhance the site's wetland habitat and nearby uplands, remove invasive species and contaminants at the site, and protect an 18th century historic etary on the property. Chasey also said the organization also hopes to improve boat launch access at Mill Bend.

Tina Batt, RCLC fundraising director, said several state and federal agencies have invited the Conservancy to apply for grant funding, a process that is already well underway. RCLC will submit several grant applications by the end of the year, and expects to hear back from the funding agencies by the spring of 2020.

All speakers emphasized that the RCLC is a volunteer organization. Volunteers and others wishing to make tribution to the Conservancy's effort can find additional information at the RCLC website, www.rclc.org.


Redwood Coast Land Conservancy
P.O. Box 1511
Gualala, CA 95445
Email: rclc@rclc.org
Phone: (707) 884-4426