Ecologically-Oriented Tourism – Community Development Plan for Masonite Site (Part 3)

From Earl Brown

Apr 10, 2009, Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

Ecologically Oriented Tourism, or Eco-Tourism, is quickly taking root in the American mind. More and more people are seeking recreation activities and vacation destinations that are close to home and in rural to wilderness areas. People are seeking connection to wild nature for the thrill of it, for the beauty of it and for the soul stirring awe one can feel when faced with a mountain panorama, or ocean sunset, or simple animal experience. Mendocino County is the interface between the remaining wild-lands and the urban sprawl reaching up from the Bay Area and Sonoma County. Among this population there are many people who want wilderness experiences yet lack knowledge of a destination with support facilities. As fuel prices and the awareness of the hidden costs of oil exploitation (war, oppression, racism) cut into people’s desire to burn fossil fuels they will look for suitable alternatives closer to home and that are reachable by mass transit.

Mendocino County is on the fringe between the urban and the wild and is blessed with a splendid variety of landscapes, wilderness, coastline, rivers, people, towns and businesses. Somewhere in Mendocino a visitor can hike, bike, ride horse, raft, kayak and swim. There is fishing (ocean, fresh water), hunting, hang gliding, boating, 4×4 jeep and motorcycle trails, and sight seeing. One can enjoy organic wines, nature photography, rock and mineral hunting, native plants; learn about native cultures, alternative energy, sustainable organic farming and bio-dynamics. We have the Russian River (West Fork, East Fork, and Main Russian) the Eel River (Middle Fork, South Fork, and Main Eel), for people looking for water sports, and the Yolla Bolly Wilderness and the Lost Coast, for those wanting the quiet serenity of the wilderness with its many benefits. We, in Mendocino County, are uniquely situated to broaden our economic base by protecting and enhancing our wild lands and rivers. As increased ecological awareness spreads through the mass population Mendocino County could become a model of localization and self-sufficiency, and with an economy based upon healthy naturally functioning ecosystems.

In the Ukiah Valley there would be investment needed into urban stream restoration and walkways and bike paths, walking and bike trails along the Russian River, removing safety hazards in the river channel, campgrounds, and safe transportation. There is the regional park being constructed along the Russian River at the east end of Gobbi Street to complete; water activities at Lake Mendocino (non-motorized) can be developed. Road and mountain biking is gaining popularity and many of our rural roads are suitable for bike traffic and some bike paths will need to be built. It is possible that as the area’s popularity for weekend getaways increases, shuttle services to nearby points of interests — like Vichy Springs Resort, Orr Hot Springs, Montgomery Woods, Clear Lake, Lake Pillsbury, wineries, breweries — would be needed. Organized bike trails around the Ukiah and Hopland Valleys could link organic wine grape vineyards and wineries, tasting rooms, organic farms, river access and other attractions yet to be developed.

The Russian River from below Coyote Dam to the Talmage Road Bridge is a calm, class 1 stream, suitable for families and youth to kayak. With the removal and replacement of the Norgard Rubble Dam (safety reasons), at the end of Norgard Lane, south Ukiah, and the removal of the old car bodies and failed steel erosion control structures from the river channel, the river is a day kayak float to Hopland. The Russian River, south of Hopland to north of Cloverdale is another challenging, class 3, river with potential portage at Squaw Rock, for novices, or at low water flows for everyone. The removal of the safety hazards and maintenance of the river channel for navigation would open this up fairly easily to moderately challenging sections of river for commercial and recreational use. Wineries could put picnic areas along the river to promote their products and encourage visitors to their facilities.

McGee Park, on the East Fork Russian River, along Eastside Potter Valley Road to Potter Valley is undeveloped and closed for several months during the winter. The East Fork Russian is a challenging Class 3 (advanced level) stream and a fun kayak run down to Lake Mendocino, as well as a local swimming and fishing destination. Development of day use facilities, barbeque pits, picnic area, and river access would make this a meaningful recreation spot and encourage visitor use. This could be combined with a rental concession at the north boat ramp on Lake Mendocino.

North (non-motorized) and South Cow Mountain (motorized) is a multiple use attraction for off-road enthusiasts, mountain bikers, hikers, and rough-it campers. This is some of the only camping available, other than at Lake Mendocino ($20/night), in the Ukiah area and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

A little farther out is Lake Pillsbury, more off-road trails, hunting, fishing, camping, access to Covelo, and the Yolla Bolly Wilderness. The Eel River down to Pillsbury is a class 3 river and has camping at Trout Creek, a few miles upriver from the Eel River Bridge and Van Arsdale Dam. Below Van Arsdale Dam the Eel River is suitable for commercial river trips to Alder Point, some seventy miles of river. Mountain biking from Lake Pillsbury to Covelo could take several routes and side routes that would take multiple trips to see completely. Also, Hull Mountain, below the fire lookout tower, is a popular northern California handg gliding destination. Thermal currents take fliers up to around 10,000 feet, nearly out of sight, and they land on the airstrip near Oak Flat Campground.

This is just scratching the surface of the local attractions for out-of-doors activities in Mendocino County. In fact it would be a lengthy endeavor to list all of the possible outdoor attractions here in Mendocino County and this is to our benefit. We are primely located to utilize ecological tourism as a sustainable economic resource and job base.

A Potential Community Development Plan for the Masonite Site – Part 1
Eco-Train, Rail and Depot – Part 2
Ecologically-Oriented Tourism – Part 3
Rail to Trail – Part 4
Autonomous Waste Water Treatment System – Part 5
Community Interpretive Watershed and Visitor’s Center – Part 6
Food Processing Facility – Part 7

Small Diameter Pole Processing Mill – Part 8
Fiber Processing and Re-Manufacture Mill – Part 9
Image Credit: Kayak Mendocino