Coastal Post Online

January 2001

Bolinas Sounds Alarm Over Rancho Baulines Future

Superintendent Don Neubacher
Point Reyes National Seashore
Pt. Reyes Station, CA 94956

We are an ad hoc committee formed by the Bolinas Community Public Utility District (BCPUD) in October of this year to establish meaningful communications between the Park/Advisory Commission and the Bolinas Community and to advance an open, public and publicized process. At this time the committee's purpose is to help deal with BCPUD's concern over the potential impacts from the NPS's plans for Rancho Baulines on the Bolinas Community (for which the BCPUD has long been a forum) and with its frustration over the notable lack of response to BCPUD'S numerous requests for information regarding those plans. We wish to note that Rancho Baulines (The Wilkins Ranch) is historically a part of Bolinas.

Because of its compelling visual dominance and historical significance the proposed change of use of Rancho Baulines has become highly controversial. At Olema Valley's southern entrance Rancho Baulines strongly influences how the public views the cultural and pastoral qualities of this Rural Historic District.

Rancho Baulines was originally included in the ongoing 1980 General Management Plan Update process which includes all of Point Reyes National Seashore and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area North District lands. These lands were described in the PRNS Dear Friends January 24, 2000 letter and the attached Federal Register Notice. This ongoing 1980 GMP Update process requires an EIS. The NPS received many comments about Rancho Baulines prior to the Preliminary Proposal's public introduction. There was no announcement of the Ranch's removal from that process.

It is important to note that within the 1980 GMP Update process that Rancho Baulines would be part of the overall planning for the entire Olema Valley. This is supported by the following:

From the Federal Register Notice: BACKGROUND statement on the Notice of Intent to Prepare the Environmental Impact Statement/ General Management Plan Update is quoted: " The purpose of the EIS/GMP will be to state the management philosophy for the Point Reyes National Seashore and provide strategies for addressing major issues. Two types of strategies will be identified and analyzed: (1) those required to manage and preserve cultural and natural resources; and (2) those required to provide safe, accessible and appropriate use of those resources by visitors. Based on these strategies, the EIS/GMP will identify the programs, actions, support facilities, and appropriate mitigation measures needed for their implementation. The EIS/GMP will guide management of park lands over the subsequent 10-15 years. It has been determined that lands in the northern district of the Golden Gate National Recreational Area (but administered by Point Reyes National Seashore) will be addressed in this EIS/GMP. This includes approximately 15,000 acres of land in the Olema Valley, north of the Bolinas Fairfax Road and east of Highway 1 as well as Tomales Bay lands."

We believe the park has erred by removing Rancho Baulines from the 1980 GMP Update without due public notification.

The Preliminary Proposal states that the General Management Plan (1980) calls for the adaptive reuse of Rancho Baulines (the Wilkins Ranch) from private use to a public environmental education center. The proposal fails to mention that the GMP(1980) also states: "Subsequent to full development of a consolidated education center in Rodeo Valley, if there is enough demand to warrant two such facilities, the historic buildings of Rancho Bolinas at the head of the Bolinas Lagoon may be adapted as another center to accommodate the outdoor education programs of the Bay Area schools..." (Page 59.) CURRENT EDUCATION CENTERS NOW NUMBER SEVEN: Audubon Canyon Ranch Clem Miller Education Center Marin Mammal Center Point Reyes Field Seminars Point Reyes Bird Observatory Slide Ranch Pacific Learning Center [new, 2 miles north of the Wilkins Ranch on Hwy. 1]

We believe it is appropriate to remove this Preliminary Proposal from the fast track and consider that any proposed reuse of this ranch be placed in 1980 PRNS/North District GGNRA GMP Update process which will generate a vision statement for this part of the park for the next 10 to 15 years.

Consideration of the following items would be some of the issues discussed by the public in the 1980 GMP Update workshops before determining reuse of Rancho Baulines. We believe these issues apply as well to this Preliminary Project and public discussions would be necessary to fully inform the public of these issues should this plan remain separated from the 1980 GMP Update process:

Review the importance of the ranch remaining unaltered and in its present land use as a valuable example of the richness of the rural historic landscape and its value as a component of the historic cultural landscape of Olema Valley.

Review of the status of Olema Valley as a Rural Historic Landscape and how does the adaptive reuse of ranches in the Olema Valley affect this status?

Review current Preliminary Proposal for the Rancho Baulines presented by the park for consideration or modification as an alternate with evaluation of impacts.

Review proposal of M. Tiscornia presented to the park in early 2000 for consideration or modification as an alternate plan for Rancho Baulines with evaluation of impacts.

Consideration of a no change alternate with evaluation of impacts.

Consideration of any other alternate presented with evaluation of impacts.

Evaluation and results of traffic studies, proposed plans, final recommendations and implementation of those plans for mitigating traffic impacts since the 1980 Golden Gate National Recreational Area / Point Reyes National Seashore General Management Plan / Environmental Analysis. (GGNRA/PRNS GMP/EA) before any further adaptive reuse of ranches in the Olema Valley takes place.

Evaluation of the impacts of a preferred alternative on adjacent communities such as traffic, loss of housing, loss of privacy, disaster and fire response coupled with a study on the cumulative effects since 1980 (GGNRA/PRNS GMP/EA) before any further adaptive reuse of ranches in the Olema Valley.

Review of studies which removed Rancho Baulines and the southern Olema Valley from the pastoral zone.

Review of plans and inventory which would document the completion of the Ed. Center at Rodeo Valley before a preferred alternative is chosen for Rancho Baulines.

Review documentation or studies of the historic structures in Olema Valley which reflects any change in inventory , status, condition and use since the 1980 GMP before a preferred alternative is chosen for Rancho Baulines.

Evaluation of the effectiveness and use of the present 7 Ed. Centers in the PRNS/GGNRA and the documentation necessary for reuse of the remaining ranches in the Olema Valley which would result in a change of use to either Learning Centers or Educational Centers or some other adaptive reuse.

Study to determine the need for an additional Ed. Center beyond the newly established Learning Center at the Hagmaier Ranch at the south end of Olema Valley 2 miles from Rancho Baulines. The 1980 GMP called for one, not two in south Olema Valley, if needed.

Review funding mechanisms, both short and long range, for the preservation of the qualifying historic structures in both the North District GGNRA and the PRNS before any preferred alternative is chosen for Rancho Baulines.

Concerning the Preliminary Plan itself we have the following concerns:

1- The plan is too vague. It is unclear who, either the park or the park partner PRBO, has the responsibilities of management for what. Who is responsible for the day to day management of the 1400 acre ranch? Where do they live? Where is their office? That person(s) should certainly live on the ranch.

2- The budget is also vague and does not go beyond 2004. There is no maintenance until 2004 and only maintenance after 2004, paid by whom? What costs are the public responsible for and what costs are the main partner responsible for? How will future costs be met? What will the lease costs be for the main partner? The budget appears especially inadequate for the main barn if its classified occupancy becomes educational and has to be brought up to the demands of the Uniform Building Code and the California Building Code. Where are the soft costs items for architects and engineers?

3- The plan suggests that PRBO has provided to the public through its association with the park $10 million in research and education over the last 20 years. How is this demonstrated?

4- Office space, classrooms and amphitheaters are inconsistent with the cultural landscape and the historic significance of this Ranch. Exhibits, amphitheaters and, to a lesser degree, classrooms demean the rich history of the Rancho Baulines.

5- How much traffic will be generated by the "Components of the Overall Project ?"

6- There is no mention of off site housing for office workers, research persons, guests, etc. which would be generated by an expanding PRBO, especially any resulting impacts on the Bolinas housing crisis.

7- How will the park enhance existing public trail use? Location of trailheads?

8- "Background on the Significance of the Overall Area" Makes no mention of the unique and historic quality of the communities adjacent and within the park which may themselves be endangered and threatened.

9- We generally agree with the Project Goals which could be applied to other alternatives, but wish to add: "To not further increase traffic impacts on local communities."

Additionally, we recommend that the environmental components of this plan: riparian restoration, avian and other vertebrate monitoring, progressive grazing management and exclusionary fencing could, and should, be implemented regardless of whether or not this Preliminary Proposal goes forward.

In conclusion, we also need to see a detailed budget for the restoration and maintenance of each alternative under consideration for Rancho Baulines so we can be confident that the property will be adequately cared for into the future. The visual amenities of this ranch are of exceedingly high value to the public and a great scenic and historic asset to the park. This cultural resource must be protected.

We recommend that NPS use a park authority mechanism to allow the current tenant to remain managing Rancho Baulines until the completion of an EIS and the 1980 GMP Update. This will enable the public to thoroughly discuss any proposed alternate plans for this ranch in the context of its importance as a part of the historic and cultural significance of the entire Olema Valley.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Preliminary Proposal for the Wilkins Ranch (Rancho Baulines).
Steve Matson, Chair
Bolinas Committee on Park Planning

Coastal Post Home Page