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It Takes A Valley (And A Bunch Of Money) To Save A Park

On Sunday, June 10, everyone is invited to come to a celebration of the success of the effort to keep Hendy Woods open. There will be a potluck lunch at the Day Use area of the park from 12-3pm. An update will be provided for those who are interested. But this get-together is principally intended to be a joyful gathering in surroundings we are grateful that we will continue to be able to enjoy. Carpooling would be both helpful and economical. Entry by car continues to be $8.

On May 13, 2011 the state issued the press release that said that Hendy Woods was to be closed. On May 11, 2012 we got the word that the state was putting the park back up on the reservation system,, and would keep the park open for now.

Folks have been very generous with praise and thanks to me. But know for sure that without a whole lot of people working together on this, we absolutely would not have succeeded. Here are some of the people who have participated in significant ways. Experience suggests I am about to forget someone who greatly deserves recognition.

Let’s start with the Volunteers! Part of the donation in our Donor Agreement is 1000 hours of volunteer time from July 1-June 30 working at and for the park. So far, around 40 people have volunteered to participate in various ways, including campfire talks, trail maintenance, kiosk sitting, biological monitoring, infrastructure repair and maintenance, interpretive walks, and keeping the Visitor Center open. As needs become more specific, we expect the number of volunteers may expand over time. Without these volunteers, we would have needed to come up with even more money to keep Hendy Woods open. A volunteer meeting will be scheduled soon.

Another category of volunteer is the Board of the Hendy Woods Community. These people stepped forward in November, and every one has made a significant contribution. Each person in this very collegial group has many wonderful attributes and only a few are mentioned here. Linda MacElwee reminds us how lucky we are to have a park to engage with and also helps us be realistic. Deanna Apfel has turned her artist’s eye to our promotional materials, immersed herself with me in the bureaucratic quagmire, and taken care of endless business details. Kate Castagnola is ordering our finances and keeping smiles on our faces. Janet Anderson turns out to be Bill Graham reincarnated, organizing myriad details and people for the Navarro Vineyards Earth Day BBQ and now putting together the July 11 Kris Kristofferson and Bill Bottrell concert in Mendocino. E-mail time stamps suggest she gets up early and works late! Lauren Keating knows when to be skeptical, understands how to keep a business afloat, and provides a great place to meet. Glad Donahue keeps us in tune with the digital age, getting us to use QR codes and credit card readers the size of a couple pieces of Chiclets, and helping set up the accounts that allow us to use them. Mike Rielly writes a lovely thank-you note, has come up with all sorts of auction items, keeps good records, and is cheerfully willing to ask all kinds of people for all sorts of help. Sophie Otis researched the status of park accessibility and discovered that Hendy Woods is one of only two state parks in the County with facilities for people with physical limitations. Keevan Labowitz is a good facilitator, as well as a proofreader who notices logic gaps. Nicola Milojavic is a steady presence and can’t wait to be wielding a hammer on a repair job at the park. Cyd Bernstein sees things that need doing and gets them done. Besides being one of the Occupy organizers, thanks to her, Juniper Ridge gave us money, we will be at Sierra Nevada World Music Festival, and we’re having the June 10 celebration. Before she had to devote herself again to full-time farming, Pam Laird helped unravel some of the mysteries of Excel. Our partners and spouses have been helpful in various ways, including Eric Labowitz, Roy Laird, George Castagnola, Steve Anderson, Joseph Patel, Eli Donohue, and Mark Apfel.

Others are not on the Board, but nevertheless have spent countless hours helping the organization to move forward. Margaret Pickens helped organize the silent auction for the BBQ, and Monica Landry not only helped with the BBQ, but has become our de facto publicity agent for the Kristofferson/Bottrell concert. Jill Hanum spent a huge amount of time helping to put a grant application together. Judith Dolan also helped with the grant. As noted in a previous thank-you letter, a huge contingent of folks pitched in for the very successful Earth Day BBQ.

Going right back to the beginning, Burt Cohen, President of the AV Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber Board, authorized the advocacy that brought the importance of Hendy Woods to the attention of decision-makers in Sacramento. Every store, restaurant, and gallery owner in the Valley that we asked for written support, provided it. You can drive down the Valley and thank virtually every business you see.

The AV Winegrowers Association, the AV Community Services District, and the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors all provided important political support, which made an impression in Sacramento. This led to our invited participation at the hearing chaired by Assemblyman Jared Huffman, Chair of the Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee and beautifully organized by his staffer Diane Colborn. Again, this raised our profile, and also triggered the interaction between our community and the Save the Redwoods League, which also appeared at the hearing. The CSD is also acting as the “fiscal agent” for the Hendy Woods Community, allowing us to accept tax-deductible donations while we await our own tax-exempt status,

Closer to home again, let’s not overlook Charlie Paget-Seekins, Polly Bates, Leah Collins, and Diane Paget, who along with Cyd and Keevan were the original Occupy Hendy Woods! organizers. It is hard to overstate how important that three-day event proved to be. Our organization came from the convocation held there, and our credibility with the Park District was enhanced by how well it was conducted.

Bill Boger at Jack’s Valley Store and the Unity Club provided us with materials that allowed us to reconstruct the history of the park. The staff of the AV Unified School District provided help in many ways. Dave Brookshire, the news director at KZYX, has covered events and political developments. And even though, according to Joseph Pulitzer, “Newspapers should have no friends,” the Anderson Valley Advertiser has been balancing that credo with its other dictum: “Fanning the Flames of Discontent,” and has helped us keep the community informed about what we are doing to keep Hendy Woods open.

A huge thank-you is also long overdue for our selfless webmaster Marco Heithaus. He registered and paid for the domain, hosts the site, created the format, and keeps up to date with ever expanding levels of information. In this day and age you just don’t exist if you don’t have a website, and Marco picked up this hugely important ball and with no fuss at all keeps running it down the field month after month. We have raised a rather astonishing amount of money because people could push the Donate button on our website, as well as link to the site for our event tickets.

Finally, speaking of money…. Our Donor Agreement stipulates that $40,000 will be given to a state fund earmarked for use at Hendy Woods. $20,000 of that is coming from our wonderful partners, Save the Redwoods League, whose Executive Director Ruskin Hartley was instrumental in making the agreement happen. Mediation by the League’s retired Executive Director Kate Anderton helped mesh the nuts with the bolts to create the agreement. The other $20,000 is coming from our organization, the Hendy Woods Community. We have had a tremendous financial response from within and outside Anderson Valley. Over 408 people and businesses have contributed financially by donating money, hosting an event, or buying BBQ tickets.

Several large donations were instrumental in allowing us to pledge the $20,000 to the state. These came from Duckhorn Wine Company/Goldeneye Winery (at the suggestion of Executive Winemaker Zach Rasmussen), Petit Teton Farm near Yorkville, Navarro Vineyards (Deborah Cahn Bennett, Ted, Aaron, and Sarah Bennett), and Shona Nelson (who does not live locally, but loves the park). The Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association invited us to participate in the just completed Pinot Fest, where we had an auction item, collected donations, and spoke with many people who were staying at Hendy Woods.

Additionally, noteworthy contributions came from Neva Dyer, Henry Gundling, Anonymous (such a helpful person in so many ways), Susan Smith, Susan Juster, Monica Landry, Frances Weiner, Yoriko Kishimoto, and Paul Deas. Among other notables, Joe Montana, who used to camp at Hendy Woods, and Jack Nicklaus provided auction items!

Every dollar you have provided has been significant to us. The approximately 40 donors who put in $535.25 at the December 7 event got our organization off the ground. We used that money to pay for information cards, copy and distribute the film, “Defending Our Legacy: Hendy Woods” that Heidi Knott, Leah Collins, and Tim Glidewell made about our effort, and pay the fees to register with the state as a real organization.

There were weeks and months when we were completely stuck and making what seemed like no progress at all with the state on coming to an agreement. It really was encouragement when needed most to open Box 443 in Philo and find an envelope with a check and a little note. And it was quite pleasantly astonishing to go to and discover that someone, generally someone never previously heard of, had sent us some money because they loved Hendy Woods too.

Of course, it takes money to make money, and we are currently spending some for unglamorous things like the insurance required for the July 11 Kris Kristofferson and Bill Bottrell Concert in Mendocino, but also to print the really attractive posters for the event created by Sharon Garner, as a donation. Another generous Anonymous provided the connection with Kris K.

Having a bit of money in the bank allows us to breathe a little for now. But we are not done. The Parks Department tells us we will probably have to help underwrite operations at Hendy Woods for 3-5 years. We will be working on getting the park’s financial picture sustainable for the long term. But right now we are focused on putting together the volunteer program, publicizing the July 11 concert, and celebrating our success on June 10. There are even more people to thank, whose actions along the way contributed to our success, but their part of the story will have to wait for another day.

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