The Ukiah Daily Journal


- By Mary Benjamin

Terry Bertels, District Supervisor of Sonoma Mendocino Coast State Parks, confirmed a damage estimate of $1.2 million due to the January rain and wind storms along the coast and inland. The most remote sections of the various state parks have now been assessed for cleanup. Most of the state parks in the district are now open, but there is limited access since the cleanup of debris and other hazardous conditions is in progress.

Bertels described his priorities as “getting parks back to use for visitors, such as cleanup of parking lots and clearing of roads, and reopening trails and campground­s.” Only those campground­s normally open in the winter will be targeted.

Bertels described cleanup as “removing downed branches, hanging limbs, and hazardous trees damaged but not down.” He reported that power restoratio­n has water pumps and water lines operating in the restrooms.

Bertels noted that since this area of California was declared a disaster zone, the state parks are entitled to apply for FEMA funds to conduct repair, removal, and reconstruc­tion. He is currently accepting contracts for removing downed trees, particular­ly those lying across trails or roads.

Although there is a large number of downed trees, other damage must be addressed as well. Slide-outs and beach erosion degraded the Jug Handle Beach access, and storm surge gouged the cliff below Point Cabrillo.

Although the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse sits about forty-five feet above the ocean, wave action broke through the doors on the bottom floor during the storm. The merchandis­e and some permanent displays in the gift shop operated by the Point Cabrillo Lightkeepe­rs Associatio­n were ruined.

Bertels noted that Van Damme State Park suffered the most damage. Many trees are down, and two trail bridges were washed out. He advised the public to avoid the Fern Canyon Trail since trail bridge rebuilding will need to be done.

Most of Van Damme State Park remains closed, including campground­s. However, day use on the beach and the parking lot are open. Up-to-date informatio­n about access to other parks can be found on the individual state park websites. For example, although open, Montgomery Woods State Park has many damaged trails.

Bertels said that many of the state parks' trail access points have now posted danger signs to alert hikers to potential hazards. The trails marked closed are particular­ly dangerous at this time. The soil is still oversatura­ted, portions of trails may be washed out, and trees could fall at any time.

Damage to the iconic Spring Ranch barn, which lost the southeast corner of the roofing, will be assessed by a historical structure architect. Bertels said, “We will do what we can,” but acknowledg­ed that, generally, the buildings on state property are in a “state of arrested decay.”

The most significan­t loss suffered in the state parks was the uprooting of old-growth redwoods over a thousand years old. Three are down in Hendy Woods State Park, one in Montgomery Woods, and one in Armstrong Woods in Sonoma County. The trees will remain on the ground to become part of the forest floor ecosystem.

If parts of the old-growth trees block trails or roads, specific sections will be cut out to allow access. Bertels noted, “The loss of any single one of the old growth is significan­t regardless of how many trees there are.”

Bertels is aware of the public's desire to return to their favorite spots in the local state parks. He said, “I ask for people to be patient. We're not going to get everything back to where it needs to be as quick as a lot of people want it to be done.”

He added, “We're doing the best we can with what we have. Be patient and exercise caution if you venture out.” Your best course is to check with the state park office about any closures.

 ?? CONTRIBUTE­D ?? Downed old growth tree in Hendy Woods State Park
CONTRIBUTE­D Downed old growth tree in Hendy Woods State Park

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