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Valley People (December 30, 2020)

NO OBITUARY has appeared for Cecil Ball, a long time resident of Boonville who died recently after a long illness that confined him to his home where he was cared for by Mark Bell, his eldest son. Mr. Ball was an Army veteran of World War Two and was among the first American troops to occupy Japan following Japan's surrender. A member of the Jehovah Witnesses church, Mr. Ball was a retired millworker. His wife, Benita Ball, preceded him in death. He is survived by sons Mark and Clayton.

AVFD FIRST RESPONDERS have received round one of the COVID-19 vaccine at Anderson Valley Health Center.

HUGH McAVOY WRITES: I read the bit in Valley People this week wondering about what was going on at 301 Wendling St. in Navarro. The Contractor is McAvoy Construction, (that’s me). The building and property were bought by out-of-the-area folks with plans to remodel it for family use. 

Retrofit foundation work is a specialty for us and that’s how we got the call. Initially the building was sitting on the ground and actually the back end was below grade. 

Once we got it off the ground and up in the air the construction of the new foundation could begin. 

The final elevation is a bit higher than code requires but I believe the more air and light in the sub area the healthier it is. 

When I first looked at the building there definitely was a sense of history present, and as the job went along, locals would stop by and share bits and pieces. We are close to being done with our part and the owners will take it the rest of the way. I have read some history of the town of Wendling and would love to know what part this building played. 


Hugh McAvoy, McAvoy Construction

P.S. The inspection went well.


Re: House under construction in Navarro

From what I can piece together using the documented and the anecdotal information I have gathered over the years, I can honestly say that particular area of Wendling/Navarro is a bit of a mystery. Though it is clearly identified as an integral part of an official land survey done in early the1900s, it is only listed as one of many town lots. The land survey was done in an effort to develop the area for a future town, which ultimately turned out to be a bigger idea than reality. 

Most of the known history of the area commonly known as Wendling/Navarro has focused on two specific places which were the lumber mill itself and the string of Hotels that were grouped together in the area now occupied by the Navarro Store. 

Wendling, 1910

The mill closed its doors around 1925 but the railroad continued to be used by a few independent contractors for various reasons until 1929 when the owners, Albion Railroad/Southern Pacific, took back all of its rolling stock and hired a company from San Francisco to salvage the steel rails on the main line and all of the subsequent spurs. Without an operating mill or a railway connection to the Albion Wharf the small town of Wendling/Navarro, having never reached its full potential, was simply abandoned. However a few hardy souls did stay on, either simply unwilling to give up, or in an attempt to eke a small living from this once bustling community. 

In the late 1940s and 50s, when Americans hit the road in their new automobiles traveling across the country searching for new places to see and stay, the town had a small resurgence. And it was during this time that I believe that our "mystery building" comes into existence. I believe it was probably an old existing building, probably a small residence, that was remodeled into a restaurant. 

What its name was or how long it served in business I haven't a clue but I do know in my heart that it must have been a wonderful dream. A dream, possibly, of some little family, to own and run their own business, a roadside restaurant graciously serving the public. 

If walls could talk just imagine the stories they could tell, all the laughs, the celebrations, all of the romantic moments, all wrapped up in the warming comfort of a delicious home-cooked meal. Just think of how much life was lived within those walls of wood and paint and nails. 

Now just distant voices of a long ago era and without an audience to listen, its memories, its history have all been sadly lost to time. 


Yes, I wish I knew more about the restoration project on the Old Highway south of the current Navarro center. But it’s good to see the structure restored with the care that’s being done.

I did stop by the job one time this Fall and gave one carpenter a copy of the story I wrote describing The Town when it was supporting the mill, 1902-29.

My sources of information about the structure were local woodsman and friend Bill Witherell and the logging family Isbell, Harvey, Ilona and kids, who were the renters when I first moved to the Valley fifty years ago and up until last year.

Bill Witherell said that it was a hotel, or a whorehouse back in mill days, or maybe both. There were a line of five hotels on the other side of the Old Highway that began at the Navarro Inn site running to across from what I still call the Isbell home. Bill said the simple one story building was a hotel too, as small as it was.

And that’s the way so many houses and public buildings were built in those days, their foundations simply redwood mudsills framing their perimeters, short posts holding up the flooring and walls. Rot often set in in a generation in that Deep End climate. 

My sense is that the nineteenth century logging and milling cycle prevailed in those days: clear cut all the trees accessible by oxen, mule or rail spur and be gone in twenty or thirty years to the next Old Growth investment. So all the structures supporting the community need not be built to last; just get them usable cheaply and fast. And as my previous article mentioned across the creek behind Hotel Row was the Albion Branch Railroad with a spur left that passed within fifty feet of the Isbell House, then up the gulch for a quarter mile and more to a flat car loading landing. You can still walk the right-of-way today.

I know the generous good-neighbor Isbells would be pleased to see the old structure restored, though I don’t know if a Faller’s wages would support the rent these days.

VERY NICE GIFT to the Anderson Valley community, especially its children, from the Johnson Family of Boonville who “welcomes residents of the Valley to come drive through and watch the light show that is on display at 11255 Anderson Valley Way. We ask that you remain in your vehicle and follow any covid guidelines and restrictions set by the county. The light show will be available from dark to 10pm. The driveway is a single lane road that loops around at the top of the road (Keep to the right). As you drive through, please feel free to roll down your window and listen to the music that plays along to the dancing lights. Only one vehicle is permitted at a time since there is not a passing lane. We know times have been rough and we hope this brings a little joy and entertainment. Hope you all have a Happy Holiday, From The Johnsons  As a reminder please remain in your vehicle.”

THE AV FOOD BANK is a volunteer organization that dispenses food to needy locals twice a month. Demand has never been greater. 317 people were served at the first round in December, 527 at the Christmas distribution last week.

BUT the Food Bank was suddenly asked to leave its long-time home behind the Boonville Methodist Church, and to be out by the end of December. No explanation was given, or at least an explanation that anybody who might know will disclose.

PERHAPS in the spirit of the season, or perhaps belatedly realizing that the eviction of a charity by a Christian church at this time of year would represent a fundamental contradiction of Christ's message, the eviction was put over until the end of January. 

SO THE FOOD BANK turned to the Mendocino County Fair Board for help. The Fair demanded an extortionate one thousand dollars a month as a site to feed the hungry twice a month. 

PHILO GRANGE to the rescue. The Food Bank has been invited to do its crucial work out of the Grange, where distribution commences in February.

AS ONE VOLUNTEER put it, “This is holy work especially during this challenging time. We are thankful for all the help of our beloved community. The Food Bank is a long list of dedicated local volunteers, some who pack the bags while some who distribute the packed bags. Some help every Food Bank. Some help occasionally when we are short-handed. Some people buy us food when our usual delivery is sparse. Some people share food from their gardens. I would say we are a collective of people who are all in agreement that no one should go hungry.” 

IMAGINE JOSEPH AND MARY arriving destitute in Boonville, Mary heavily pregnant. Turned away by the  AV Methodists as theologically incompatible, the couple walk down the street in search of a manger at the Boonville Fairgrounds where they're told, “We have a manger out back, but we'll need a thousand bucks up front and proof of insurance.”

BILL ALLEN WRITES: “I just finished Bill Kimberlin's excellent memoir. I breezed through it in two days. I couldn't agree more with your mini-review of it in Valley People last week. Except for a couple of glaring historical errors and some grammatical mishaps a better editor would've caught, it was a most pleasurable and informative read. Curiously enough, however, my first thought after finishing the chapter about Boonville was not ‘pride of place,’ but a slight sense of dread. ‘Oh great,’ I mused, ‘when this book gets wide circulation the real estate values around here will probably shoot to the moon!’ (As if they aren't already astronomical.) The Lear Jets will be lining up to land at Boonville International! How long will it take to become ‘heralded’? We'll see. Here's to 2021. Hold fast, hang on. This rollercoaster ride ain't over yet!”

THE EDITOR PLANS to make sure his copy of Kimberlin's book winds up with the AV Lending Library once it re-opens because lots of locals will enjoy it. As for the Lear Jet hazard, they mass-landed about the time of the Rollins' and the New Boonville Hotel. Gastro-maniacs from all over began arriving when the Hotel was featured in the NYT, and some of them stayed to plant grapes, having noted the relatively cheap land prices here in the later 1970s. But most people of ordinary means haven't been able to get a mortgage in The Valley for years. For a county constantly touting itself as “progressive,” actual land use and building policies are basically feudal.

FROM THE MINUTES of the December 16, Anderson Valley Community Services Board meeting: Clean Water: A report about the Fairgrounds Meeting on Dec 14th was given. The Engineer Dave Coleman answered many questions; some specific to the Fairgrounds site and some about the project more generally. The compensation figure of $70K per acre was given so that they [the Fair Board] were aware of the potential amount the State would pay to the County for the site. The Fair Board voted (all ayes – except two abstentions by Eva Johnson and Derek Wyant as their property was still on the EIR list until the Board picks a preferred site): “To not accept the project with the information we have at this time.” The Zoom transcript from the Waste panel discussion on 12/3/20 was discussed. The ADU [Accessory Dwelling Unit] program was discussed including the County’s offer of pre-designed and engineered ADU plans. Director Christen shared a Power Point presentation that will help us organize our approach when doing presentations going forward. Supervisor Ted Williams suggested interacting with individual Supervisors so that they understood what our project was about as well as getting on the March agenda to do a presentation. However, we need to know if we will be pursuing the Fairgrounds site as the County is not involved unless we have the Fairgrounds as our preferred site.

“DRINKING WATER: Engineer Jack Locey is still working on all the easement documents. CSD Attorney Phil Williams is reviewing them. Planning Grants are both running very low on available funds. We have started talking to USDA [Federal Department of Agriculture] about funding shortfalls. The USDA is primarily a loan program, which we are not interested in. However, they can fund $30K to each project for specific items such as soil studies, separating the CEQAs [California Environmental Quality Act which had been combined for both Clean Water and Drinking Water], rate study, etc. Quinn Donovan from USDA and the engineers are exploring this and we will bring this up as an agenda item next month if we are applying for USDA funds. We are also talking with the State about amending the Planning Grants to increase funds.”


“A response from the Environmental Health officer: The rumor about a Municipal Waste Water system triggering code enforcement on parcel owners is untrue. It has come to our attention that a rumor is going around that incorrectly states that parcels that hook up to a possible Municipal Sewer Project in Boonville will be required to bring their homes and buildings up to code. The following is a statement by the Mendocino Building and Planning Dept on Dec 18, 2020:

Dear Mrs. Hanelt: 

Environmental Health will NOT be "forcing them to bring their homes and buildings up to code". Environmental Health would assist the AVCSD in any way to implement the water and sewer system. The AVCSD would be considered a special district and have authority to operate free of County Environmental Health because the State Regional Water Quality Control Board would be the permitting authority over both water and sewer systems. At best the County EH would be involved in the destruction of any septic tanks that the district decides to not utilize. The standard operating procedure to abandon a leach field is to destroy the septic tank. The leaching field is left in place and not excavated. 

While Environmental Health would not require any upgrades to existing homes or structures we would assist property owners who would like to expand their homes or business or build new homes and structures that were previously not feasible due to the existing water and septic system constraints. The creation of the water & sewer district will expand the opportunities for development on each parcel that connects to it. Residences will have the ability to add bedrooms and accessory dwelling units will be allowed on parcels that were previously limited by Environmental Health requirements.

Marlayna Bourbonnais Duley, REHS Land Use Program Manager, Environmental Health Mendocino County

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