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Caspar Community Newsletter: December 2000
December 2000 Caspar Community Newsletter
The Headlands -- for Life
As the center of the industrial bustle of the Caspar Lumber Company this site once supported structures including the Caspar Lumber Company Mill, the chute which transported logs from the railway on the bluff 500 feet into the millpond 100 feet below, the tramway that hauled finished lumber onto the blufftops, almost a mile of standard gauge railroad track, 1/3 of a mile of dual gauge track, over two-and-a-half miles of narrow-gauge tramway track with 15 tramway turntables, a car shop, large and small engine houses, oil and water tanks, hoist, extension trestle, the winding and head houses for the wire chute that transported finished lumber and passengers three hundred feet to ships in the Bay and twenty-five acres of drying yard as well as worker residences, cookhouse and other support facilities.
For a decade after the mill closed in 1955 the site served as the road access to the town dump, where residents tossed their refuse over the cliff onto what is now known as Junk Beach. Since then Frank Johnson's and Ron and Leilani White's cows grazed the land until early this year.
Over the past 45 years, Grey fox, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Ferriginous Hawk, Northern Harrier, White-tailed Kite, and Prairie Falcon have all made the meadows of the headland their home. Indian paint brush, blackberries, gorse, eucalyptus, scotch broom and various grasses now grow on the scraped terraces that were once the lumber company's industrial domain. Down in the creek and riparian habitat, threatened Coho Salmon make their way up the stream while birds of concern including Blue Heron, Osprey, Olive-sided Flycatchers and Purple Martins use the area for feeding and nesting.
Many plans for future use of this valuable natural and historic site have been proposed over the past three years. The Mendocino Land Trust will initially close the site to public access until archeological and botanical studies are completed which are necessary to acquire Coastal Commission permits to create signage and trails on the property. The Land Trust hired Patty Madigan as part-time overseer of the property. The current Caspar Beach Advisory Committee, which includes representatives from the California Coastal Conservancy, the Mendocino Land Trust, Caspar Community, California State Parks and several adjacent land owners, will be reconstituted to assist in the management of both the Caspar Beach and Caspar Headlands properties that now are under ownership of the Mendocino Land Trust.
Roger Sternberg, Executive Director of the Land Trust predicts that the Land Trust will hold the property for up to two years at which time the land will be transferred to California State Parks. The Advisory Group will help devise an interim management plan that will include the studies and proposals for signage and trails. What will happen on this acreage will be determined in a long-term management plan developed either by State Parks or the Advisory Committee with opportunities for public input.
Had this meadow and creekside ground not been converted to public open space, five to seven houses and a row of two-story commercial buildings could have dominated its landscape, blocking views and access to the headlands, cliffs and shore for residents and visitors to Caspar. Two "rural village" (commercial) parcels bordering Caspar Road, William's Place and an empty 200 deep lot, are still in the hands of the Caspar Cattle Co. and could be developed.
Many ideas have been proposed for the Headlands including a presentation made by landscape architect Shamli Tarbell at a Caspar Community meeting earlier this year which outlined a proposal for trails tracing the lumber history of the parcel as well as a Steelhead and Coho lifecycle walk. Other public comments at that meeting stressed the importance of this piece as a link in the Coastal Trail including the possibility of applying for a grant to finance construction of a walking bridge over Caspar Creek. A great debate will no doubt arise over the extent of public use of the property and its impact on the survival of the natural inhabitants of these acres.
Parking and signage have been a big question as well as construction of a formal entrance. Parking has been proposed near the viewpoint off of Highway One with trails down to the headlands, although there have been suggestions that handicap parking in town may be necessary. Local residents have voiced concern about traffic and impact on nearby residential areas as a result of the ownership change.
In order to mitigate some of these worries, the Caspar Community is negotiating to lease or buy a five-acre flat area near the viewpoint as well as "the little house" and 1.13 acres surrounding it. The Caspar Community is proposing to steward the five-acre flats, which could serve as parking and trail access to the rest of the lands. In this stewardship they will work to revitalize indigenous plant species and eradicate invasives like pampas grass, which are beginning to dominate the area.
"The little house" stands as the only structure on the property and is an example of nineteenth century local architecture. Located just around the corner on Ore Road (currently known as Frontage Road) the small parcel includes the house, several outbuildings and two "garages" that functioned as single-man housing for mill workers. The Caspar Community is proposing to stabilize the house by placing a new perimeter foundation under it and a new roof over it. They also would perform necessary exterior repairs to insure that the structure is protected against weather damage. Due to the costs of bringing the house up to code as a public building, the little house may not be open to the public at large. The 1.13 acres around it however will be open to public use as a picnic, viewing and recreation area. Historical archives may be housed in one of the many outbuildings and a community garden may grace its gentle slope. A water supply and septic system would have to be developed to make the property fully functional.
The Trust for Public Land, which negotiated the transfer of the property using Coastal Conservancy and Transportation funds, worked on the project for over two years utilizing several staff members including Andrew Vesselinovitch, Nelson Mathews and Sonia Jacques. Sonia guided the project through its last hurdles as several environmental problems on the property threatened to preclude its acquisition as the property owner persistently reminded all groups involved in the purchase that, if this deal did not go through, other buyers waited to snap the piece up. Sonia finally held a meeting with Mary Wright, State Parks Deputy Director, and Warren Westrup, State Parks Chief of Land Acquisitions. Mary Wright insisted that this opportunity not be passed up and pushed the project forward.
Moira McEnespey and Miles Dolinger of the Coastal Conservancy worked tirelessly to ensure the processing of the mountains of paper work required for the release of the state funds for the purchase.
Now it is complete and the land rests as public open space for the entire world to enjoy. Cheers to all!
Land Trust & Conservancy
In July 1998 Julia McIver of the California Coastal Conservancy called and said, the State has budgeted one point eight million dollars to buy Caspar Beach, but now State Parks says that they can not take possession of it. The State Department of Finance says they will not approve the deal without a responsible recipient. I convinced them to give me twenty-four hours to find a group that will hold and manage the land responsibly. Do you have any ideas?
Grail Dawson and Jim McCummings of the Mendocino Land Trust had attended several meetings of the Caspar group working to buy the property previously owned by the Caspar Lumber Company which included the Beach/Cemetery parcel Julia referred to. They had said they would be willing to help in this effort any way they could. Founded 24 years ago, The Mendocino Land Trust promotes the mission to conserve important natural resources, working farmlands, and forests throughout Mendocino County, and to provide coastal access to the public.
I told Julia about the Land Trust and gave her Jim McCumming's phone number. She said that sounded like a good possibility, thanked me and said she would let us know what happened.
A few hours later a call came from Roger Sternberg, whom the Land Trust had just hired as its Executive Director. He thought the Land Trust would take responsibility for the property as long as they could acquire some guaranteed funding to manage it.
In August 1999, MLT took ownership of the old Caspar Lumber Company lands south of Caspar Creek 74 acres. Yesterday, on December 19, 2000 they took ownership of 71 acres of the Caspar Headlands and the northern side of Caspar Creek extending to Highway One (see map). Together these contiguous pieces form the largest parcel under Mendocino Land Trust ownership and management.
Julia and the California Coastal Conservancy began working on this project in 1989. According to their literature, The California Coastal Conservancy, a unique state resource agency established in 1976 by the Legislature, uses entrepreneurial techniques to purchase, protect, restore, and enhance coastal resources, and to provide access to the shore. Typically they handle all State of California funds allocated to purchasing Coastal property.
Funds for the beach acquisition originated in a member's request from State Senator Pat Johnston in 1998. With the successful transfer of that property the Mendocino Land Trust and The California Coastal Conservancy became active in seeking funds for purchase of the Caspar Headlands. With The Trust for Public Land's successful negotiation of a purchase option for the Headlandsin May of 2000, the Conservancy Board allocated $1,5000,000 towards the Headlands purchase. This money came out of a 1999 budget item proposed by Assemblywoman Virginia Strom-Martin and Senator Wes Chesbro that the Mendocino Land Trust, Caspar Community and The Trust for Public had dedicated many hours and letters to secure.
With a $3.5 million price tag on the land, $2 million still had to be secured to purchase the property. In May of 2000, Moira McEnespey took over project management of the Caspar Headlands for the Coastal Conservancy. She headed the Conservancy's role in a $1.5 million grant from Transportation Enhancement Activity Funds. Leah Gastman, grantwriter for The Trust for Public Land, wrote the grant and submitted it through the Conservancy. Known as TEA-21 Funds for Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, these Federal funds come through the California Transportation Commission (CalTrans) and successful applicants must be approved by both CalTrans and the State Resources Agency. Moira and Leah applied for Funds in the Conservation Lands Program which is intended to fund large scenic land acquisitions of statewide interest and priority along transportation corridors where those lands also have a high value for conservation habitat.
In August 2000 the State Coastal Conservancy Board, accepted $1,500,000 of federal Transportation Enhancement Activities Program grant funds, and authorized disbursal of $2,000,000 to the Mendocino Land Trust to complete acquisition of the approximately 71-acre Caspar Headlands property, Mendocino County. Governor Davis added the extra $500,000 in the 2000-2001 State budget and directed that it should come out of Proposition 12, State Park Bonds fund money.
Then a long process ensued of getting four sets of lawyers to approve the actual land transfer which involved over a dozen different documents as well as numerous inspections and analyses of the property. Callers to the Coastal Conservancy did not get Moira last week because she was out with the flu but her voice mail did say, in case of an emergency dealing with the Caspar Headlands, please call . . .
Roger Sternberg says the Mendocino Land Trust has spent hundreds of hours on the Caspar Headlands property transfer. As the future owners of the property the Board and staff of the Land Trust performed due diligence in the land transfer. The main issues in this process revolved around securing a detailed survey of the property and participating in an environmental assessment, which looked at any old dump sites on the previously industrial land.
With the property finally transferred, the job is not over. Moira McEnespey of the Coastal Conservancy and Roger Sternberg and Patty Madigan of the Mendocino Land Trust will work through the Caspar Beach Advisory Committee to steward the future of the Caspar Headlands and Beach property until it is transferred to State Parks over the next two years.
That's Us All Over
At our September Community Meeting, many Casparados assembled to have their photo taken. This photo was taken by someone else, but Anne Hamersky's photos appeared in Preservation Magazine, the publication of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and accompanies Rob Gurwitt's fine article about the community of Caspar and the planning work that began when, as Rob says, Oscar Smith jolted Caspar by offering 300 acres for sale. There are copies of the magazine at the Caspar Community office if you d like to read this fascinating article about our home town.
Bulletin from the Future!
Caspar, Friday, 17 December 2100
Preparations for this weekend's holiday celebration at the Community Center are heating up. Several Casparados spent this week in the community greenhouse harvesting zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, and a bumper crop of Meyers lemons. The Coho Authority has earmarked several big fish for the main course, and of course there will be trout from the treatment ponds. A big cooking party is planned for tomorrow in the communal kitchen at Caspar Place, where residents have been working all week on appropriate party favors. You may remember that several boxes of old records from the early days of Caspar -- CD memory disks with old photos of Caspar before all the automobiles and power lines were gone. Well, you can t imagine how hard it was to find a CD player that could read that crusty old format! Several of the images have been cleaned up and will be spliced onto the walls during dinner. Of course we re all looking forward to seeing the footage of Noyo bridge collapsing in the 2006 Quake again. Many elders say that's when Caspar really came into its own as the Community with a Future.
The party starts Saturday evening at sundown with the dedication of the new Restoration Center. Governor Tarbell will be on hand. I wouldn t miss this for the world, she said. Imagine planners a hundred years ago setting aside land for future use! They were truly ahead of their time! Special trains from Westport and Elk have been scheduled to bring those who consider themselves Casparados even though they are temporarily habbed elsewhere, and a selfless crew of Solar Taxistas will keep the shuttle running as long as necessary. There will be a Solstice Bonfire and Headlands Commemoration at midnight. As always, those with habs in downtown Caspar will be opening their Murphys for visitors who want to stay overnight. If earlier celebrations give any hints, the dancing will probably last until dawn.
On Sunday, the traditional History Walk will begin at 2pm at the Community Center. Heirs of several of the First Stewards will guide walkers through some of the heritage homes not usually open to visitors. We are very fortunate to have so many old-style habs preserved in such good condition, and it's always instructive to see how our forebearers used precious substances like redwood and water as if they didn t live in a closed system! The walk will end with the traditional wreath-placing and gorse wine tasting ceremony at Ancestors' Square.
Your correspondent always gets misty when thinking about the differences between Caspar and the Rest of the World where pavement covers all and every rooftop produces grain and rice. We are so lucky to eat meals made with fruits and vegetables out of a greenhouse rather than staples from a foodfax. And to celebrate under a roof that still echoes from our ancestors celebrating a century ago! No hundred years has ever been so full of change as this last one, yet here in Caspar, so many Good Things survive from the Old Days, surrounded by such a healthy ecos of coho, osprey, redwoods, burrowing owls, kelp, deer, bear, poppies, otters, whales, and mountain lions. We are so fortunate to live here!
Mary Flannery Kraut Interview
This is the another in a series of interviews with our neighbors in Caspar.
I grew up in the Bronx, and met my husband, Jeff, while he was interning at the hospital in the South Bronx where I was nursing. Like many who came to work there, he came to help: This was a slice of the third world in the early 1970s, where babies born addicted to cocaine and died from diarrhea. Jeff was from California, and we return as soon as his internship was complete. We looked everywhere, Burlingame where his parents were, a horrible trip to Bakersfield -- the car broke down and we stayed in a motel with pink plastic flamingos ... and finally Jeff found a suitable job in Ukiah. I got my California nursing license and worked there, too. We lived south of town, and right away we had a garden, a dog, chickens. I liked that.
Jeff's group was building a practice on the coast, and Jeff liked it here, so we moved over in 1974. We wanted land, and the best we could find was here in Caspar. For me, "California" meant southern beaches, but I knew it was going to be cold and dark here among the trees. We got here in time for the heyday of the Birthing Center at the hospital, and Jeff was very busy. We knew we were going to stay, so we built our house.
I like the rural life. When I go back to visit my family, the lifestyle seems very strange. There I lived in apartments and we weren't allowed to walk on the grass. Neither of my parents drove. They were city people and we lived a well-ordered life, very secure. I remember only one power outage, the Great Black Out [of 1967]. My two sisters live in New Jersey and Manhattan, and my mother says "Mary lives in the woods." And we do! You can't compare the natural beauty here with any place else.
A lot of people who live here don't think of Caspar as their town, but we always have. I remember the chickens roaming Main Street, and my children loved to visit the playground. Heidi was born in 1979, and Michael in 1983. I stayed home with them and the land and animals. I involved myself with their schooling, trying to get gifted programs started, seat belts on school buses, helping with sports. Heidi was active in Mendocino's 4-H program for 12 years, and now she's at Texas A&M. She started majoring in animal science but now it's political science. She's a writer, a photographer, and a natural leader, so that's a good choice for her. Michael is a senior at Mendocino High School, very involved in sports and thinking about studying business in college.
From my mother I learned it's your responsibility to give back. Life has been very good to us, and so I'm very committed to working on various community service projects. I remember reading about the work to preserve Caspar's quality of life several years ago. The ideas about the need to "preserve" were new, because we already thought of Caspar Beach as "ours". I felt called upon to represent the needs and interests of East Caspar. Then as now, we were concerned about traffic, emergency response, but I also cared about the duck pond, the cows, the precious rural quality we enjoy so much. We've heard rumblings about development all along, and that's a constant worry. And it felt good to invest time and energy into my neighborhood.
Logging has become a major concern in the last few months. It started on Johnson Park road, and at first we believed what we were told, that it was just neighbors improving their land. Then we noticed that one logging operation was clear-cutting on five parcels under "conversion exemptions" and we really started worrying! Right from the start there were questions about boundaries, trees were getting marked on neighbors' land, and the cumulative impact on the neighborhood was enormous. We realized we didn't know enough about what was going on.
Many of us are in a bind: we don't disapprove of logging, and we're not against the idea of conversion exemptions. Many of us make our livings in the forest. But we're all supposed to be stewards of the land, caring for it for our children's children, and so we believe logging should be done properly. Yet neighbors weren't getting notices, parcels changed hands almost overnight, dead people's names were appearing on permits, and the operator seemed to be working the edges of the law. Some of us were "notified" by the sound of trees crashing down on Sunday morning! Water sources were being damaged, and the "wind tunnel" effect that has knocked trees down in East Caspar was being made worse. We were naive enough to think that we should have some say in this matter.
There appeared to be one logging operation on multiple parcels supposedly belonging to different people. CDF [California Division of Forestry, the agency responsible for permitting and monitoring logging operations] maintained that these were owner separately, but it didn't take us long to determine that the ownerships were shells all held by a couple of developers working together. It also didn't take us long to find out that these same guys had been making the same kind of "mistakes", and abusing conversion exemptions on Simpson Lane, Gualala, Anderson Valley, Santa Cruz, Sonoma, and Humboldt counties. That's not what "conversion exemptions" are meant to do. You're supposed to have a "bona fide intent" to justify these cuts -- fire protection, clearing a building site, opening up grasslands, landscaping -- but CDF was being very permissive. On Simpson Lane they allowed a "building site" that lacked proper setbacks, ruined a slope, and damaged a neighbor's spring, any one of which would have violated the zoning, to justify a project. Sonoma County has required zoning approval on such permits for years.
Our neighborhood organized as "Concerned Caspar Citizens" -- and we still need your help, by the way: send it to CCC at box 68, Caspar, CA 95420 -- and started learning about the regulations. We got good advice from Rod Jones. We've been trying to work with CDF, and several of us went to Sacramento to present our case to their policy-advisory group, the Board of Forestry. We also made presentations to the Mendocino County Supervisors and the County Forestry Council because we knew that unless they took action this pattern of abuses was likely to continue after all our trees were gone. We want zoning approval of "bona fide intent" before permits are approved, safeguards against bogus ownership, and consideration of cumulative impact. We've had some success getting the CDF to tighten their procedures and check on alleged violations. Applicants now need to show legitimate intent and every permit form we see states the regulations more clearly.
This experience has drawn our neighborhood together -- not everyone, of course; this is still Caspar. We feel and appreciate the support of our larger community. When the trees stop falling, we'll be better friends for having endured this adventure.
January 21 Community Meeting
If you only attend one meeting in Caspar a year, MAKE IT THIS ONE!
On Sunday afternoon, January 21st, 2001, at 2 pm, most of the groups that make their homes in Caspar will convene at the Shul -- the Mendocino Coast Jewish Community Center in downtown Caspar -- to share their plans and needs for the year. When the directors of the Caspar Community assembled a list of Caspar-based organizations we came up with a list of 18! Clearly, something's up, and we decided that this quiet Sunday in January would be a good time for a town meeting and exchange of energy. To make it work well, we need you to come and join us.
For more information and for an up-to-date list of the groups that will be present, check the Mendocino Beacon and the Caspar website: CasparCommons.org (note, no www. )
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