Saturday, May 16, 2015

From Big Stump to the Stumptown Days Parade


Last week, a group of staff and board members from Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods traveled to Calaveras Big Trees State Park to meet with their counterparts. We have ambitions of remodeling the Jenner Visitors Center, and building a new facility at Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve.  With one-fifth of our million park users, their new Visitors Center generates five times our current gross revenue.   Their capital campaign dwarfed even our most optimistic goals.

I was very impressed by the quality of the sharing and organizational connections.  Key personnel, with decades of experience supporting educational and resource protection programs in a park containing a huge concentration of California's largest and oldest trees, talked all afternoon and evening about what lessons they had learned.  The combined personnel are responsible for almost three thousand trees which were alive when Sir Francis Drake arrived on California's coast.  The combined height of these trees in these two parks would reach four times beyond the orbit of GPS satellites, and they'd weigh more than all the whales in the world.

But volume is not the value of these giants.  The experience of walking among them gives us an incomparably important environmental perspective, and brings to our understanding our impact on the world.  One example is a six foot high stump near the entrance to the North Grove at Big Trees, upon which was once constructed as a dance floor.   It has been postulated that had it not been cut down early in the last century, that it would have grown to become the tallest tree in the world.  Walking along the length of its supine trunk, and in the caverns of its fallen body, few cathedrals which man has built can compare to its reverence.

Our group gained valuable perspectives from the extended conversations that day.  In these times of state budget cuts and the feared abandonment of California's natural and cultural resources, it is crucial that those working to reverse the tide communicate well together.  We will continue our discussions long after our return to Sonoma County, and our actions on behalf of the resources under our care will be improved as a result of the interactions.  Our thanks to the Calaveras Big Trees Association Board and Staff for opening their hearts and home to us.  They are welcome in ours anytime.

Today, the work of Stewards continued with our participation in Guerneville's Annual Stumptown Days Parade.  Board, staff, community members and their children marched beside our new StewardShip, puppets and drums in hand, and passed out flyers describing our upcoming programs and events.  As I waited at the front of the parade line watching our own Mother Nature, Elizabeth Vega, rehearse the volunteer children in their drumming routines, I wondered about how many dance floors in San Francisco were born from trees that once surrounded this town.

Friday, April 17, 2015

April 17th, Sonoma Coast Parking Research Web Forum


Now that the California Coastal Commission has taken control of the proposal by the State Parks Department to install Automated Parking Pay Machines at 15 parking lot locations along the Sonoma County coast, I think that it is important that we all start an online group of discussions about all of the ideas.

Here is a Google Web Forum I have established for us to do so:

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Locations of Proposed Coastal Pay Parking

Blue icons are proposed sites, yellow are suggested alternative parking.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Monday, March 30th, Iron Rangers Appeal


At a meeting on April 15th in San Rafael, the California Coastal Commission will be told by the California State Parks (CSP) that new technology, active monitoring, and site mitigation will increase access to the Sonoma coast and improve protection of its resources.  Item 17A on the Agenda for Wednesday, April 15th,  states:

Appeal No. A-2-SON-13-0219 (California Department of Parks and Recreation, Sonoma Co.)
Appeal by California Dept. of Parks and Recreation of Sonoma County decision denying coastal permit for installation of signs and self-pay fee collection devices ('iron rangers') for charging new fees for parking at 14 locations across 35 miles of Sonoma County coast (at Stump Beach in Salt Point State Park, Russian Gulch, Goat Rock - Blind Beach, Goat Rock - South Lot, Goat Rock - North Lot, Goat Rock - Arched Rock, Shell Beach, Portuguese Beach, Schoolhouse Beach, Salmon Creek - North Lot, Salmon Creek - South Lot (Bean Avenue), Campbell Cove, Bodega Head - Upper Lot, and Bodega Head - Lower Lot), Sonoma County. (EL-SF).

In a letter to the Commission, the Department indicates:

"CSP will demonstrate pay station installation will not result in damage to coastal resources, and will actually enhance public access to the coastline within Sonoma County, consistent with both the Coastal Act and the LCP. CSP will also demonstrate that the proposal retains affordable, low cost recreation, as well as free recreation, and that there is no public safety or environmental impacts associated with the proposal that are not present now, or cannot be reconciled with active management and monitoring as proposed. " 

How will CSP accomplish this?

"In the short time since CSP filed its original application, the available technology now employed has rapidly evolved and improved. Whereas the traditional fee collection stations were limited to a heavy metal cylinder planted in the ground, CSP now installs electronic self-pay stations or Automated Pay Parking Machines (APPM) at many of its busier parks, even in remote areas with limited infrastructure. APPMs are solar powered units which have Wi-Fi connectivity to allow for the purchase of day use access through the use of cash, debit, credit, and Pay Pass options. They are fully programmable, and can be modified to meet daily needs, allow for retrieval of data, and thus have the potential to provide for a more flexible and efficient rate schedule. Users can add time using their smart phones in locations where cell phone service is available, and CSP can alternate rate schedules to ensure maximum access is promoted."

The appeal of Sonoma County's denial of CSP's original proposal now hinges on CSP convincing the Commission that "substantial issues" exist in the appeal which require that they hear it.  The support of three of the twelve Commission members are necessary to force a vote of the Commission on whether to have a hearing on the appeal.  Unless a majority of the Commission present finds that the appeal raises no substantial issue, the Commission moves to the de novo stage of the appeal hearing.   If the Commission finds that the appeal does not raise a substantial issue, then the local government's action is final, and there is no de novo phase of the appeal hearing.  

The de novo stage of the appeal hearing may occur at the same Commission meeting.   Anyone may testify on the merits of the merits of the proposal during the de novo phase.  People wishing to testify on this matter may appear at the hearing, or may present their concerns by letter to the Commission on or before the hearing date.

The following information is provided by the California Coastal Commission, in a Public Hearing Notice, dated Mach 27 2015.

A copy of the staff report on this matter is available on the Coastal Commission's website at Alternatively, you may request a paper copy of the report from Ethan Lavine, Coastal Program Analyst, at the North Central Coast District Office, 45 Fremont Street, Suite 2000, San Francisco, CA 94105-2219.

If you wish to submit written materials for review by the Commission, please observe the following suggestions: 

We request that you submit your materials to the Commission staff the week before the scheduled Commission meeting (staff will then distribute your materials to the Commission). 
Mark the agenda number of your item, the application number, your name and your position of support or opposition to the project on the upper right hand corner of the first page of your submission. If you do not know the agenda number, contact Ethan Lavine, Coastal Program Analyst, at the North Central Coast District Office, 45 Fremont Street, Suite 2000, San Francisco, CA 94105-2219.

If you wish, you may obtain a current list of Commissioners’ names and addresses from any of the Commission’s offices and mail the materials directly to the Commissioners. If you wish to submit materials directly to Commissioners, we request that you mail the materials so that the Commissioners receive the materials no later than Thursday of the week before the Commission meeting. Please mail the same materials to all Commissioners, alternates for Commissioners, and the three non-voting members on the Commission with a copy to Ethan Lavine, Coastal Program Analyst, at the North Central Coast District Office, 45 Fremont Street, Suite 2000, San Francisco, CA 94105-2219.

You are requested to summarize the reasons for your position in no more than two or three pages, if possible. You may attach as many exhibits as you feel are necessary. 

Please note: While you are not prohibited from doing so, you are discouraged from submitting written materials to the Commission on the day of the hearing, unless they are visual aids, as it is more difficult for the Commission to carefully consider late materials. The Commission requests that if you submit written copies of comments to the Commission on the day of the hearing, that you provide 20 copies. 

Oral testimony at the substantial issue stage is limited to 3 minutes combined total per side to address the question of substantial issue. Oral testimony at the de novo stage may be limited to 5 minutes or less for each speaker depending on the number of persons wishing to be heard. 

No one can predict how quickly the Commission will complete agenda items or how many will be postponed to a later date. The Commission begins each meeting session at the time listed and considers each item in order, except in extraordinary circumstances. Staff at the appropriate Commission office can give you more information prior to the hearing date. 

Questions regarding the report or the hearing should be directed to Ethan Lavine, Coastal Program Analyst, at the North Central Coast District Office, 45 Fremont Street, Suite 2000, San Francisco, CA 94105-2219.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Tuesday, December 23rd, Sonoma Coast


Very nice gathering at Bodega Head last night to toast Bill Kortum, a real Coastal Hero.  Special thanks to Paul Judge for taking the photos.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Charging for Coastal Services


As I delivered a solar power generator to Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods yesterday, to be used to bring electrical power to mountain meadows and campgrounds, I had a strange idea on how we might look at another policy decisions affecting the coast.

One of the most controversial issues facing the North Coast is the request from California's Parks and Recreation Department to install fee collection devices in parking areas along the coast to charge for automobile parking.  The fees are necessary because the state general funds  are being cut back by the Legislature, and parks are being required to raise funds locally to pay for operational costs.

Maintenance of restrooms in parking lots generates the bulk of the costs for which the parking fees are being introduced.  Elsewhere in the state, access to the coast is being maximized by installing controllable electronic fees collection devices which encourage turnover and minimize all-day parking.   Installation of these devices on the North Coast is made more difficult because few have electricity onsite.

What if we install solar power generators on top of the restrooms, and charge to use the restrooms?  My wife says the downside of this is that visitors might try to find somewhere else to relieve themselves.  One of the current arguments against charging to park is that visitors will find somewhere else to park.  So the question in my mind is: which is the greater harm?

And we create a mobile phone app which knows you bought a state parks annual pass.  Aim it at the restroom door, and it unlocks.  No onsite collection of fees.  A real incentive for buying a parks pass.  If we standardize the state, regional, and local pass privileges, all parks benefit.  And we can collect lots of good info on who is visiting our parks, and can let them now about all of our park activities in a timely manner.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Coastal Protection at Torrey Pines in 1929


One of the first battles to save the California coast from the pressures of a development occurred in 1929 when local commercial interests urged building a high-speed highway through Torrey Pines City Park.  The proposed road was designed to bypass a narrow, winding grade which created a bottleneck on the major thoroughfare between San Diego and Los Angeles.  One scheme called for blasting away 1,700 feet of sea cliff for a straight, more gradual right-of-way from the beach to the mesa top.  Debris from the cutting in the new alignment was to be dumped onto the public beach.  One scenic canyon was to be crossed on an embankment of fill, and another spanned by a bridge.

Opposition to this proposal was led by The League to Save Torrey Pines Park.  Its members felt the best solution was to build a new road to the east via Sorrento Valley, skirting Torrey Pines altogether. In a brochure that addressed numerous reasons for preventing the road, the League answered its own rhetorical question, "Is the danger to the Park very pressing?" with the following blast: "So pressing that only an immediate and emphatic expression of public disapprobation can save the heritage of the people from a defilement which will bring upon its perpetrators the condemnation of generations yet unborn."  A compromise was reached in 1930, and a grade (old Highway 101, now North Torrey Pines Road) was cut through the upland instead of along the cliffs.  The region's modern freeway (Interstate 5) was eventually built east of Torrey Pines, following the route favored by the League 40 years earlier.

Follow the current efforts to protect the coast and continued access to it at the following websites:

Act Coastal
Coastwalk California
California Coastal Commission
California Coastal Conservancy