Mill Bend, the scenic property at the mouth of the Gualala River, has been secured by a conservation buyer in partnership with Redwood Coast Land Conservancy (RCLC) as the major step in preserving and protecting the Gualala River estuary, the gateway to the Gualala River watershed.
The site of a succession of timber mills in the last century, Mill Bend consists of two parcels of land that extend along the Gualala River on both sides of Highway One south of the town of Gualala on the border of Sonoma and Mendocino counties. The riverfront property, which runs along the estuary, includes a mixed-conifer forest, a pioneer cemetery and other historical landmarks and provides important habitat for steelhead trout, bald eagles, river otters and other wildlife.
Securing this scenic property will provide an opportunity to extend the California Coastal Trail from Gualala south to the Sonoma County Regional Park, allow greater community access to the river and safeguard the site from commercial development. As the gateway to the Gualala River, Mill Bend is a key piece in the long-term plan for a Gualala River Park.
“The Mill Bend Conservation purchase is important for all residents and visitors to Northern California,” says Kathleen Chasey, Mill Bend project manager. “Important habitat will be protected and coastal and riverfront trails will be thoughtfully built. The purchase allows access to the vital river estuary for habitat restoration, and the National Marine Fisheries Service welcomes the Gualala River to their Salmon Recovery Program for California. Planning work will begin in early 2020 with goals to enhance steelhead habitat and to bring back the Coho salmon to the Gualala River Watershed. It’s very exciting!”
In 2017 when the Mill Bend property was put up for sale for the first time in 70 years, RCLC and other local conservation groups formed the Mill Bend Coalition to find a way to purchase it. Help came from a conservation buyer, the Allemall Foundation of Libertyville, MD, which set up Gualala River Park, LLC, to acquire and hold the property while RCLC raises $1.8 million to repay the Foundation and another $600,000 to support stewardship of the property in perpetuity. As the project has moved forward, RCLC has taken the lead role. Anyone wishing to make a contribution to the Mill Bend Project can do so on the RCLC website, www.rclc.org, or by sending a check to P.O. Box 1511, Gualala, CA, 95445.
About the Redwood Coast Land Conservancy: RCLC is a local land trust based in Gualala and supported by local contributors and volunteers. In partnership with California State Coastal Conservancy, RCLC has set aside and protected multiple scenic public access areas along the southern Mendocino Coast, including the Gualala Bluff Trail, Cooks Beach and Hearn Gulch, and holds local conservation easements for habitat protection and enhancement.
Submitted by Cheryl Harris, Redwood Coast Land Conservancy