Wednesday, February 10, 2016

California Coastal Commission Executive Director Fired


A few minutes ago, the California Coastal Commission emerged out of a closed session vote to fire its Executive Director, Charles Lester on a 7-5 vote.  Voting in the affirmative were the four Commissioners appointed by Governor Brown, two Commissioners of the Assembly Speaker, Toni Atkins, and one Commissioner appointed by Senate President Pro Tem, Kevin de Leon.

In a closing comment, Dr. Lester said it was an honor to serve the Commission, said he hoped it could continue, and thanked the large crowd of his supporters present.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Coastal Pay Parking Plan Meeting, Feb 17th


For the past year, local staff of California State Parks have been meeting with representatives of Coastwalk California, Sonoma Coast Surfrider, Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, Sonoma County Conservation Action, and Sonoma County.  Following the decision by the California Coastal Commission last year to take jurisdiction over a proposal to install automated pay parking machines at locations along the Sonoma Coast, the Commission ordered State Parks to meet with stakeholders and the public to improve the permit application.  On Wednesday, Feb 17th, State Parks is inviting the public to participate in a community meeting from 6:30-8:00pm in the Sebastopol Community Center at 490 Morris Street in Sebastopol, where their latest proposed plan will be presented for comments.

First, let me say that I have appreciated and admired the work of local state parks staff in the development of their latest proposed plan.  It has not been easy for them to both respond to their legislative mandate to increase revenue from park users, and to solicit and incorporate the advice of advocates of coastal access who believe that parking fees will inhibit that access.  Nevertheless, the latest proposed plan being revealed demonstrates that they have listened.

I continue to advocate that the maintenance and operation of California's parks should be financed by the broader California public and the state general fund, and that the barrier presented by imposing parking fees on Sonoma's coast violates the coastal public access requirements of California's Constitution.  While the latest proposed plan includes new efforts to remedy the economic hardship imposed on Sonoma's poorest residents, cuts in half the number of installations, uses staffed kiosks in three key parking areas, and promises to use the revenue to improve the services delivered by State parks on the coast, it does not go far enough to convince me that significant numbers of Californians will not barred from their coast.

Hope to see and talk with you all at the meeting.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Mike Frey, A True Friend of the Coast


Yesterday morning, the Board of Sonoma Coast Surfriders surprised a retiring member with a presentation at the coastal town of Dillon Beach.  Mike Frey, who has spent the last 25 plus years supporting and leading efforts to keep beaches and the ocean clean, and whose clear guidance has helped his colleagues chart their way through many environmental battles, was given a custom surfboard emblazoned with the Surfrider Foundation logo and a tribute to his service.

Though Mike told me he'd still be around and helping, I know his struggle with muscular dystrophy and some serious family needs will begin to dominate his time and energy.  All of us hope to see him enjoying the board, and will make sure to circulate any advice he wants to offer.  He has and will continue to be a true friend of the coast.

To see the photos I took, click on Mike Frey.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Marin Rebels Coastwalk 2015, July 29th


Just returned from first three days of the Marin Rebels Coastwalk. Great group and Coordinators who since Monday have been hiking the northern Marin coast. Monday night's dinner at Audubon Canyon's Cypress Grove Preserve on Tomales Bay with Martin Griffin, introducing their film "Rebels With a Cause" has to rank among our choice Coastwalk experiences.

Last night's stay at the Point Reyes National Seashore Hostel was also a hit, after hiking up from the Estero Trailhead. Today, they are hiking from the Marin Headlands Visitor Center to Haypress Camp in Tennessee Valley, tomorrow to Alice Eastwood Camp, and Friday to the Alpine Lodge above Muir Woods on the south slope of Mt, Tamalpais. What a spectacular week

Here are some photos I took on Monday at Cypress Grove and at Tom's Point in Tomales Bay.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Park Pay Machines Research, June 10th


Preparing for meetings currently being organized by State Parks, with the encouragement of the California Coastal Commission, I decided to do some investigation.

In the appeal materials submitted by State Parks to the Coastal Commission for the April 15th public hearing,  the following information was provided:

"In the short time since CSP filed its original application, the available technology now employed has rapidly evolved and improved. Whereas the traditional fee collection stations were limited to a heavy metal cylinder planted in the ground, CSP now installs electronic self-pay stations or Automated Pay Parking Machines (APPM) at many of its busier parks, even in remote areas with limited infrastructure. APPMs are solar powered units which have Wi-Fi connectivity to allow for the purchase of day use access through the use of cash, debit, credit, and Pay Pass options. They are fully programmable, and can be modified to meet daily needs, allow for retrieval of data, and thus have the potential to provide for a more flexible and efficient rate schedule. Users can add time using their smart phones in locations where cell phone service is available, and CSP can alternate rate schedules to ensure maximum access is promoted.

Each APPM will have four bollards and installed to protect the machine, as well as, ADA access, and
signage to assist visitors with “Self-Pay” instructions. Signage is located on 6’ high x 2” diameter breakaway galvanized pole secured and anchored with concrete. Signage typically measures no more than 28” in width and no more than 84” above finished grade.

With the use of APPMs CSP can offer a rate structure that can be set to accept both flat rate and hourly options from the visitor. The use of the machines and a flexible and reasonable rate structure effectively manages high demand parking areas by increasing turn-over allowing for an increase in access for all visitors to these unique coastal areas.

Initially CSP proposes identical rates at each of the 14 locations, using the following general rate

Flat all-day rate $8
Hourly Up to $3
15 minute “surf-check”/sunset spaces Free

CSP will provide a 15 minute “surf-check” or sunset window for free at all times. It should also be noted, if patrons pay for a flat all-day pass, it will be good for all day use areas within the Sonoma-Mendocino Coast District for that calendar day."

There are two state parks in our area where State Parks has placed APMs of the kind described above. They are at Olompali State Park and China Camp State Park.  It appears that one is solar-powered, and the remainder are powered by underground cable.  

They are produced by a Petaluma company (Ventek International), whose representative I met yesterday.  Raymond Lucas, Director of Client Services, indicated that his machines could also transmit credit card transactions via satellite phones in areas where little cell phone capacity exists.   Issuing permits for a variety of park services beyond parking, one in China Camp allowed for charges for trail use, camping, and equestrian access.

He said that, while they are not now capable of providing parking lot use data remotely, they could be programmed to do so.  

Their machines are currently operating in Point Reyes National Seashore and Sequoia National Forest, as well as hundreds of other national, state and regional parks.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

From Big Stump to the Stumptown Days Parade


Last week, a group of staff and board members from Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods traveled to Calaveras Big Trees State Park to meet with their counterparts. We have ambitions of remodeling the Jenner Visitors Center, and building a new facility at Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve.  With one-fifth of our million park users, their new Visitors Center generates five times our current gross revenue.   Their capital campaign dwarfed even our most optimistic goals.

I was very impressed by the quality of the sharing and organizational connections.  Key personnel, with decades of experience supporting educational and resource protection programs in a park containing a huge concentration of California's largest and oldest trees, talked all afternoon and evening about what lessons they had learned.  The combined personnel are responsible for almost three thousand trees which were alive when Sir Francis Drake arrived on California's coast.  The combined height of these trees in these two parks would reach four times beyond the orbit of GPS satellites, and they'd weigh more than all the whales in the world.

But volume is not the value of these giants.  The experience of walking among them gives us an incomparably important environmental perspective, and brings to our understanding our impact on the world.  One example is a six foot high stump near the entrance to the North Grove at Big Trees, upon which was once constructed as a dance floor.   It has been postulated that had it not been cut down early in the last century, that it would have grown to become the tallest tree in the world.  Walking along the length of its supine trunk, and in the caverns of its fallen body, few cathedrals which man has built can compare to its reverence.

Our group gained valuable perspectives from the extended conversations that day.  In these times of state budget cuts and the feared abandonment of California's natural and cultural resources, it is crucial that those working to reverse the tide communicate well together.  We will continue our discussions long after our return to Sonoma County, and our actions on behalf of the resources under our care will be improved as a result of the interactions.  Our thanks to the Calaveras Big Trees Association Board and Staff for opening their hearts and home to us.  They are welcome in ours anytime.

Today, the work of Stewards continued with our participation in Guerneville's Annual Stumptown Days Parade.  Board, staff, community members and their children marched beside our new StewardShip, puppets and drums in hand, and passed out flyers describing our upcoming programs and events.  As I waited at the front of the parade line watching our own Mother Nature, Elizabeth Vega, rehearse the volunteer children in their drumming routines, I wondered about how many dance floors in San Francisco were born from trees that once surrounded this town.

Friday, April 17, 2015

April 17th, Sonoma Coast Parking Research Web Forum


Now that the California Coastal Commission has taken control of the proposal by the State Parks Department to install Automated Parking Pay Machines at 15 parking lot locations along the Sonoma County coast, I think that it is important that we all start an online group of discussions about all of the ideas.

Here is a Google Web Forum I have established for us to do so: