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July, 2004

Tomales Bay Villages Revolt!
By Jeanette Pontacq

Tomales Bay villages are islands in a sea of federal and state lands. As a longtime supporter of both the national and state park systems, I deeply appreciate the fact that they keep the lands around us safe from development and exploitation.

BUT, for decades, I have noticed that our Tomales Bay villages are cut off from one another except via the automobile. Oh yes, one can bike or ride a horse, or walk a dog from Point Reyes Station to Inverness Park along Sir Francis Drake Blvd. That is, if one doesn't mind possibly being killed or maimed by the fast traffic!

An opportunity has arisen for the local communities to change that and more: The National Park Service is getting ready to take full possession of the Giacomini Ranch (i.e. the former wetlands next to Point Reyes Station). The absolutely final and total pull-out of the ranch is set for 2007, but reconstitution of the wetlands could begin as soon as late 2005 or early 2006. So planning is afoot!

On June 22nd, there was a public explanation of the possible alternate scenarios for the reincarnation of the wetlands. The evening meeting also offered a Restoration Concepts Workshop. There were five preliminary restoration concepts offered and explained in broad outline by Don Neubacher's team. The concepts went from "doing nothing" (No Action Alternative) to "doing as much as feasible" (Plan D). PLANS A TO D ALL HAVE A LINE ITEM FOR A PUBLIC PATH FROM POINT REYES STATION TO INVERNESS PARK. Each concept, of course, differs on the particulars of that path. And therein lies the next "local issue."

The Park Service needs input from locals BEFORE JULY 23, 2004. Now is the time to let them know what YOUR vision is for a path from PRS to Inverness Park AND if you have a vision of another trail over the old railroad right of way from PRS to any point toward Marshall. The Park Service is discretely trying to dissuade locals from the latter, but I happen to know that beaucoup locals would dearly love to see such access to at least the Martinelli lands for hikers, horses, and local bikers.

So let's go over potential visions that may interest you, your relatives or friends: HOW ABOUT a raised dirt path, built on rock fill for all-weather use, created from the bottom of Third Street in Point Reyes Station, going along Lagunitas creek as far as the location of the old summer dam, where it crosses over the creek to the road via a simple foot/horse bridge (to allow hikers, bikers and horses to continue to the Park proper via the Olema Marsh back entrance). The path could then continue, either on a protected side of Sir Francis Drake or on the other side of the creek to Inverness Park (the latter needing another bridge to cross over at that point).

How about the east side of Tomales Bay, you ask? Well, envision the same dirt path, also on an all-weather rock base, from Point Reyes Station, over the old railroad right of way, at least as far as the "Coastal Access" area of the Martinelli Ranch. Horses, for example, are allowed on those scenic acres, but they cannot access it without going along a dangerous section of Highway One. What a wonderful thing it would be for hikers, horses, and bikers to be able to finally really access that publicly-funded area without risking their lives walking OR driving! The railroad right of way goes from the bottom of the Mesa (in back of the Red Barn), around the Mesa and Overlook Bluffs to the Martinelli Ranch and beyond. You can see the raised railroad bed as you drive north on Highway One.

Obviously, the Park Service would like to turn all the land they have purchased from the Giacomini Ranch back into a true wetlands. I applaud that! The Park Service must understand, however, that the "new" wetlands (and present ranch) act as a natural block to foot, horse and bike travel between Tomales Bay villages. By factoring in paths on both sides of the "new" wetlands, they would be offering local communities both a reincarnation of the former wetlands, and a means for locals to get out of their cars and open up access to the National Seashore proper and to Tomales Bay access on the other side!! Not a small feat, I might add! And it would only take a super-small percentage of land to accomplish it...without impeding the wetlands habitats!

Obviously, there is only so much money designated for the wetlands restoration project. If Tomales Bay villages want to be connected by such MULTI-USE paths, money from the county, state and even private donations might be necessary. Supervisor Kinsey is certainly a proponent of a path, at least for the how about some discretionary funding of this path? I have a suspicion that horse riders in West Marin (of which there are many) would pony up some funds for the needed bridge construction to connect them to the Seashore.

The Bicycle Coalition salivates at the thought of such paths for themselves to speed through. Well, get a grip, guys and gals in lycra! The rest of us will be on those dirt paths....horses, hikers, runners, dogs on leashes (unless under voice control) and bikers. This is called Multi-Use! Non-local bikers are welcome, but only as guests. This is a local issue!!!

SO REMEMBER JULY 23, PLEASE!! Get together, talk about it, do petitions, meet with Neubacher & Co. Whatever. [MAIL: Point Reyes National Seashore, 1 Bear Valley Road, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956, Attention: Giacomini Wetland Restoration Project... EMAIL: at the Park, [email protected] and the Project Manager, [email protected] The Park phone is 415 464 5102 and the FAX is 415 663 8132. Lorraine Parsons is at 415 464 5193.] So get in there and say what YOU, THE LOCAL, wants. Speak or forever hold your peace. Words to live by. [email protected]


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