It looks like a strange sort of planned chaos over on Highway 116 where the fabulous Guernewood Park Resort is supposed to be built someday. For now, the site is still a vacant 10-acre redwood grove known as Dubrava Beach on the Russian River. The name derives from the gated Dubrava Village condominium complex next door.
Marginal looking people, some of whom may have even been the derelicts living under the Highway 116 bridge across Hulbert Creek, began hacking down bushes and small trees on the property a couple of months ago. They worked in the rain and made a muddy mess out a formerly grassy meadow, but they said they had a plan. One day they wired shut the two public pedestrian entrances fronting the highway and posted “No trespassing” signs. This was necessary to keep people out of harm’s way while the clearing and cleanup was completed, said a man named Rick who was overseeing the work.
“It’s only for two weeks,” said Rick, who seemed to be making it up as he went along. He talked about riparian ecology and feng shui but it was like listening to a motor that wasn’t firing on all cylinders.
Neighbors called Kirk Lok, the property owner, who said he’d authorized the cleanup and was only planning to take out some of the invasive vegetation such as blackberry vines to make the place less inviting for the homeless camps that have proliferated along the River and up Hulbert Creek.
We took his word for it that the work was an attempt to make the property presentable and more user friendly. Dubrava Beach is a popular winter destination for anglers and in the summer it’s a crowded swimming and party beach. Public access was one condition of approval 28 years ago when a Berkeley architect named Paul Wang got approval to build the Dubrava Village planned community that included 80 condominiums, a hotel, restaurant and bar and two dozen boutique retail shops. So far 55 condominiums have been built. Three owners later the hotel site remains in the planning stage.
My wife took me over to Dubrava last week to see the newest homeless camp, a pile of rags with gear and debris flung about beneath the redwood trees. The camp encircled an old redwood stump that seemed to be on fire. We could see smoke. There was no answer when we yelled “Hello, anyone home?”
It didn’t look right to see a smoking tree next to an unattended pile of rags in a redwood grove, so we called the sheriff. Pretty soon a deputy drove up and then a Russian River Fire District crew who quickly doused the fire with their fire extinguishers. Last month a trailer on the property had been destroyed by a fire of mysterious origin.
We walked around the property last Friday with Kirk Lok, who looked a little resigned about what was going on; maybe overwhelmed is a better word. Several redwood trunks had been partially sawed off. Some smaller redwoods had been cut down. It didn’t look like much of a landscape beautification effort — it looked more like someone was after burl. It looked like someone was looting the place, carrying off whatever redwood might be of value short of actually logging the remaining redwood grove.
The good news may be that Kirk Lok said he might be willing to sell the property. This came as a surprise. We talked about possibilities, such as the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District acquiring the land and the Russian River Recreation and Park District operating it as a park, maybe with some camp sites, a beach concession and a community garden.
Kirk was asking several million for the property as a commercial hotel site with completed plans that are halfway through the county permit process, but he sounded like he might take less if a community group was interested.
Now all we need is a buyer.  
Frank Robertson’s commentary runs every other week in Sonoma West Times & News.

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