Why Are We Here In West Marin?
By Jeanette Pontacq
Many mornings, I drive TWCD (the world's cutest dog), Scrunchie, to Millerton Point so that we can both enjoy the beauty and serenity of Tomales Bay with dew still on the ground. We are almost always alone there. I love standing on the highest point, looking back from whence I came.
Over the last years, I have noted how heavily filled in the Bay is. As with Bolinas Lagoon, the Bay from Millerton Point south to the Giacomini Ranchlands is more and more shallow. At lower tide, one can see just how close to the high-tide surface the mud flats are. One will soon be able to walk from Millerton to Inverness Store, except for the two channels through the high mud. Tomales Bay's head is becoming meadow: a natural process repeated time and again in our mountains, valleys and coastal areas. Don't bet that dredging will occur. What does that mean for the wetlands restoration?
On April 11th, I attended a meeting at the National Park's Red Barn Classroom on the feasibility of community paths on the edges of their proposed wetland restoration of the Giacomini ranchlands. The most telling moment was when Don Neubacher casually mentioned the financial reality of the renovation itself. All the money needed is not there yet, he said. Even for the renovation WITHOUT the community paths.
Park Superintendent Don Neubacher estimates that the approximate cost for the wetland restoration will be $4-5 Million. That figure is for restoring the ranch lands to wetlands as much as possible. The cost of any public access component, such as community paths on the edges of the wetlands or viewing areas, does not even have a rough estimate at this time. The consultants for the public access component, The Land People, will provide estimates as part of their final report. There are no available info on how much The Land People cost, and the Park Service declines to inform us.
The National Park Service is funded by the federal government, although this project is also going further afield for additional funds. Nonetheless, a federal government in very deep debt and digging ever deeper as we speak. A federal government without a clue about really huge negative trade deficits and the fact that foreign countries fund much of our overall debt-foreign countries that could decide the Euro is more productive for them now (as the Dollar falls) and stop backing us up with their investments, precipitating a recession/depression of some magnitude.
SO, we all may be old and grey (and poorer) before we see this hopeful project come to full fruition, if ever. Even then, much passion was exhibited on all sides of the issue of whether or not residents (us) should be able to actually touch and move respectfully on the edges of the someday-wetlands.
Some want only a pure (i.e. unsullied by people) someday-wetlands. We can look at it via several viewing platforms strategically placed, they say. But don't touch, don't walk, don't bother any critters on the edge. Keep getting in your cars to go someplace else to be in nature or even buy a quart of milk at Perry's Deli. Of course, they fail to mention that the area has been seriously impacted over decades by munching cows and creation of housing around and above. Not to mention the railroad that plied its way along the northern edges of Tomales Bay, leaving behind its roadbed (and a right of way still owned by the people of California, no matter what the Park says) when it stopped.
One advocate of environmental purity even brought stuffed animals to represent "the critters" in question. (I do have to say that the large fish brought to represent the Tide Water Goby looked an awful lot like a salmon!) Better to look around the Mesa and see the plethora of birds and animals in our gardens, the same birds and animals we are not supposed to "bother" by community paths!
Oddly enough, all of those who were most adamant about not having a path under the Point Reyes Mesa, connecting the town to the now-hardly-used Tomales Bay Trailhead area, seem to have large, expansive homes on the edge of the bluff overlooking said someday-wetlands. I do not impugn the honesty of their love for the purity of nature and respect their words; I simply mention the coincidence.
Most others said they did support local, simple, dirt paths between Point Reyes Station and Inverness Park AND between Point Reyes Station and the Tomales Bay Trailhead area to give locals access to a public area or nearby town without having to drive... to allow kids to walk safely to and fro...to reduce the present need to always drive anywhere and everywhere... to get kids on horses off the edge of Highway One and the Levee Road, trying to get to Park space (and failing a lot of the time due to the dangerous conditions).
Point Reyes Station is becoming more and more congested and filled in, (increasing the footprint of man) thanks in large part to a number of the same people who espouse "environmental purity." Gosh, why do the rest of us live here? Because we value space. We did not choose to live in suburbia or The City. We want sustainable, free lives in the country, for ourselves and our families and our animals. Not having to use our cars for every move. We want freedom to be with our families and animals: kids, horses and dogs, in a respectful relationship to the outdoors, with local coastal access assured.
We are not the enemy. And we are not the purists who have refused for years to admit the pollution in Tomales Bay or even attempted to find out where said pollution was coming from. The birds and critters on the edge are also living in my garden (except for the Tidewater Goby, which purists seem to think looks like a salmon). Let's get real here.
All the community asks for is a small, seasonal, dirt path, 3-4 feet wide under the Mesa. . We can even clip it out ourselves... leaving sufficient tree cover to hide the trail from the estates above... on the far edge of land already chewed by cows, diked by man, and "railroaded," under the Mesa in Point Reyes Station-to connect the much-abused town to now-inaccessible public lands nearby. Those advocating the path to Inverness Park want a path twice as wide, multi-use and all-weather. Is 3-4 feet on a public, legally-allowed right of way under the Mesa so much to ask? [email protected]
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