When hardware store owner and pioneer descendant Jack Clow was putting together the dedication event in 1963 for the newly created Hendy Woods State Park, it seems likely he would have been surprised to know that a mere 49 years later the state would come close to closing the park and shutting the public off from all its beauty and facilities. But thanks to the same tenacity shown by the women of the Anderson Valley Unity Club in their decades-long push to have the park created, Hendy Woods State Park will be celebrating its 50th Anniversary on the afternoon of Sunday, July 21, 2013.
The festivities will begin around 1, with a bring-your-own Picnic and Social. The grills will be fired up and ready to use. Chips and dip and celebration cake will be provided by the Hendy Woods Community, the non-profit group formed last year to keep the park open. Day Use entrance to the park will be free beginning at 12:30. During the course of the afternoon, there will be a brief program, gentle acoustic music provided by The Real Sarahs, and a Scavenger Hunt that will begin at 3 with mixed-age teams out foraging. The main draw, of course will be the opportunity to enjoy our park-- the sunny meadow, the river, and the old growth redwood groves-- and voice thanks to our forebears for saving this extraordinary place.
Thanks to newly concluded agreements, Hendy Woods is no longer threatened with closure. In an acknowledgment of the community’s spirited defense of the park, the California Department of Parks and Recreation has committed to making significant investments to upgrade aging infrastructure. The Hendy Woods Community is donating $40,000 and Save the Redwoods League is also donating $40,000 to be used for replacing the 50-year old water delivery system, which has been leaking at an alarming rate. These donations will be matched by the State from funds set aside by the Legislature after last year’s discovery that millions of dollars were hidden within the State Parks budget that could have been used to avoid park closures.
The State will also match an additional $22,826, which represents the monetized value of the 944 hours’ time delivered at the park itself by volunteers recruited by the Hendy Woods Community (HWC). Not only have these volunteers provided valuable service to the park and its visitors, but their effort is also helping to provide much-needed funding for a critical project. Based on their hours of service, the Parks Department also awarded thirteen of these volunteers 2013 Day-Use passes, good at State Parks throughout the Mendocino District.
Even though these are substantial financial contributions, in and of themselves they would not have come close to replacing the 1960s era water supply system at Hendy Woods. In recognition of both the public commitment and the park’s need, an additional $600,000 has been formally allocated by the State from the “found” budget money for the water system rehabilitation. Altogether, it’s a whole lot of money, but it’s a sprawling system. The miles of aging pipes are currently delivering water that is orange from rust particles, and the pipes have degenerated to the point where it’s difficult to find a solid spot from which to splice in a patch when a new leak begins to geyser. Fixing the system also presents the challenge of avoiding hurting the trees and other resources, making the project even more expensive. The total amount of money committed to the project does not completely fund the estimated costs, but are substantial enough that work has been scheduled to begin this Fall after the main camping season concludes. Fortunately, the system controls were modernized a few years ago, so fixing the water delivery component will mean the entire system will be rehabilitated and in good shape for the foreseeable future.
In other park news, volunteers for the Hendy Woods Community are again staffing the Visitors Center this summer. Currently, the Center, located in the Wildcat Loop of the Campsite area, is open several hours a day on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday with more days being added soon. It’s a small building, but there are some interesting displays as well as t-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs, and other items for sale, not to mention ice cream! Proceeds are used to benefit the park.
Nature Walks are being led most Saturday mornings by HWC volunteers. Some walks are focused on birds, and others are more general. We hope to have a schedule available soon so community members can participate more easily.
Last weekend, Saturday night Campfire Talks began again after a one-year gap. The previous year, Park Rangers had hoped to fulfill the summer tradition, but their duties so often called them far afield that it proved impractical. This year the HWC is underwriting a part-time position funded from the sale of firewood at the park and Visitor Center proceeds to bring back the Campfire Talks. The Department has chosen Boonville ethno-ecologist Jeanine Pfeiffer to take the lead. Jeanine seems to know how to make learning fun. Marshmallows don’t hurt, either!
Developing a vibrant volunteer program and juggling all the pieces is a work in progress, only started last year. Volunteer Coordinator Shelly Englert is finding new ways all the time to create a program that delivers much-needed service to Hendy Woods and is fun for the volunteers. Volunteering is a great way to connect with the wider world of people who love the park. Visitors are so grateful the park is open and express that to the volunteers every day.
Even though the immediate dire threat is past, the community has learned the hard way not to be complacent. We now know better than to assume that Hendy Woods will be open and thriving for the next 50 years. We will need to continue to raise money and maintain a community presence with the Parks Department and any other entity that could affect the park’s wellbeing. We will continually need new people to help. Folks can plug into the effort through the website, HendyWoods.org.
Come enjoy your park on the afternoon of Sunday, July 21 and celebrate the first 50 years. Walk, splash around, gaze into the trees, relax. And remember, you can go there again the next week because: It’s a park. Hendy Woods is a spectacular place and being there is sheer pleasure.