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The Big Redwoods

That $40,000 check.
$40,000 for Hendy Woods.

Author’s note: The following is a slight reworking of remarks delivered at the July 21, 2013 celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Hendy Woods State Park.

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Thank you for being here and Happy 50th Anniversary to Hendy Woods State Park!

In a world where things seem to change every couple of years, or every couple of minutes, we are blessed in our community to be able to stand in this meadow and walk in these groves of ancient redwoods and know that they have only modestly changed in the course of a thousand years.

We are grateful to those who came before us-- those who loved this place and those who stepped forward to protect it: The original Valley people, the Koma’cho Pomo; Joshua Hendy, who made it clear he wanted the groves spared even as most of the rest around here were felled; The unknown people who must have spoken up when Hendy’s nephew sold the land to a timber company after Joshua died in 1891; The pioneer settler families who brought their picnics here to enjoy the river and the cool moist air of the groves in summer and who knew they wanted the place protected; the women of the Unity Club who worked for decades to gain official protection; the 1954 County Planning Commission, whose members went on record supporting creation of a park; the Save the Redwoods League, which provided advice and advocacy through the years; and everyone who came here over the decades, saw that these groves and meadows should be protected, and kept working on it until it happened.

Now we add a new chapter. To ensure protection for Hendy Woods, local people need to spend time here, walking in the groves and along the river. We need to hold it in our hearts. Through the ages it has always been people who knew the land well who worked to protect it. And in this new chapter, it was up to the people who knew the park and loved it to save it from those who were not fortunate enough to understand what a wonderful place it is. This has been a tremendous group effort uniting people both within the community and far beyond.

So many have contributed their time, talent, energy, and money. Burt Cohen, who as President of the Anderson Valley Chamber of Commerce put that organization in the forefront of the effort; the young people of Occupy Hendy Woods and their mentor Diane Paget; elected officials and their staffers; the State Parks Foundation in Sacramento; the local business community; Save the Redwoods League; our many donors large, medium, and small; our volunteer webmaster Marco Heithaus; and what eventually became the Board of the Hendy Woods Community-- Linda MacElwee, Mike Rielly, Nikola Milojevich and past members Pam Laird, and Keevan Labowitz. Monica Landry, Joe Rubin, Margaret Pickens, Don Shanley, and the staff of the Mendocino Music Festival were also key to our success. These men and women, who were mostly working full time on top of their volunteer efforts on behalf of the park, took the lead in mobilizing volunteers and organizing complex events like the Navarro Vineyards Earth Day benefit and the huge Kris Kristofferson concert, and raised the profile of Hendy Woods to the point where the state backed off of its plans to close the park. These efforts, along with many others, have allowed us to get to this day and celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Hendy Woods State Park.

Our work to ensure that Hendy Woods survives into the future on a stable and sustainable basis continues. Recently, Board members, along with artist Guillermo Torres, were instrumental in erecting the “Welcome to Anderson Valley, Home of Hendy Woods State Park” signs at each end of the Valley. The immediate crisis has passed, but Hendy Woods continues to need advocates from our community.

The Anderson Valley Unity Club has had a unique place in the park’s history. As characterized by a timber company executive, “those women” have been the most consistent and long-standing organized advocates for protection of Hendy Woods. We have them to thank for the creation of the Gentle Giants All Access Trail. Today they are systematically working to preserve the history of the creation of the park.

One of the up sides of recent events has been the community’s opportunity to reconnect with Hendy Woods and the people who make the park run from day to day. These people include Rangers Tim Quandt and David Rodrigues; and her staff in the kiosk, Cindy Johnson and Irene Soto; the camp hosts Rhonda Harris, Jeannie Westley and Tony Westley; and Teddy Holstine and his maintenance staff, Hidecki Young and Linda Viernow. All these people are working very, very hard to keep the park running so hundreds of people each week can have an enjoyable experience.

Beginning last year, volunteers organized by the Hendy Woods Community have been staffing the Visitor Center and some hours in the kiosk, and leading interpretive walks on the weekends. Last year our Volunteer Coordinator got the program up and running, and this year Volunteer Coordinator Shelly Englert is building up the program. We also recruited Jeanine Pfeiffer to lead campfire talks on Saturday nights. We are actively recruiting new volunteers for the Visitor Center and for trail maintenance. It’s fun to be at the park—consider being a volunteer. You can earn an annual Day Use pass for your efforts.

This year we have also been lucky to be able to work with the State Parks’ new Parks and Recreation Specialist Andrea Mapes, who helps make sure the Parks Department and the community are working together effectively. She’s been a big help.

One of our most important supporters in the effort to keep the park open has been Parks Department Mendocino District Sector Superintendent Loren Rex. Loren has gone to bat for us at every opportunity and his support has made a huge difference in our success. Among the many things we have to thank Loren for is his prioritization of replacing the Hendy Woods water delivery system. The 50-year-old water pipes have reached the end of the line, so to speak, and are hemorrhaging water and turning clean water from the well into rusty water at the tap. The rest of the system is in pretty good shape, but the piping is so bad it could force the park to close if it isn’t fixed. It’s a big, complicated, and costly system to replace, but in an acknowledgment of the community’s spirited defense of the park, the state has committed to begin the work this Fall.

The money for the project is coming from a number of sources. The Hendy Woods Community is donating $40,000 and Save the Redwoods League is also donating $40,000. These donations will be matched by the State from funds set aside last year by the Legislature.

The State is also crediting the project with an additional $22,826, which represents the monetized value of the 944 hours’ time delivered at the park last year by our volunteers. The State is also matching this sum.

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. 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” Parks budget money for the water system rehabilitation. Altogether, it’s a whole lot of money, but fixing the system must avoid 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 will begin this Fall after the main camping season concludes. Once the water delivery component is fixed, the entire system will be in good shape for the foreseeable future.

It’s been a bit of a long road with many perplexing branches and blind turns. But here we are together. In honor of the 50th Anniversary of Hendy Woods State Park, I am pleased to present to Loren Rex the donation from the Hendy Woods Community for $40,000 for use in repairing the water delivery system at Hendy Woods. Our community and the people who spend time in Anderson Valley look forward to many decades of enjoyment ahead at Hendy Woods State Park.

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