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August, 2007



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Meandering through a magnificent menagerie
By Supervisor Steve Kinsey, District 4/Marin

MENAGERIE- a) an unusual and varied group of people
b) a collection of live wild animals on exhibition

Under state law, all California counties, except Los Angeles and San Francisco are divided into five Supervisorial districts. There must be equal population within each, but geographic size may vary. That's why Marin's Fourth District is truly amazing. It encompasses nearly two thirds of the County's land area. It spans from bay to ocean, embraces twenty-five distinct communities, the County's agricultural lands, and our most unique natural resources. For a decade I've been privileged to represent the Fourth District. Recently, I took an eight day sojourn that I called my May Meander. It was a doorstep to back again route of over 150 miles on foot, bike, boat, canoe, and brightly colored Stagecoach. I carried my bedroom, kitchen, and closet on my back, adding a taste of Jack London to this tale.
All week, all communities, all ages, and all I could have ever imagined. When I dreamed up this walk, I wanted to acknowledge the diverse and unique constituency and honor those who strengthen our sense of place in the midst of their every day living. I also wanted to recognize county government's integral role in our lives and connect with County employees working outside of the Civic Center. I certainly found what I was looking for.

It took some hefty planning to pull off a trip like that, and I am deeply grateful to all whose hands and hearts helped out. There were 35 different events plus a few media moments. There was a wild array of sleeping conditions, including Mt. Tam's lofty lookout, Waldo's historic duck shack, and a wind-whipped coastal campground. Twice, under an open sky, I explored the uncertainty homeless folks frequently feel. As I traveled, people shared their food and drink freely. I especially enjoyed the bottle of Firehouse Red greeting me at the fire lookout and the warm Rhubarb cookies delivered as I passed a friendly driveway in Muir Beach. I devoured cinnamon twists with Tomales' sheep ranchers, and in Chileno Valley, I ate tongue for the first time. A fresh spirit of kindness, rarely offered to politicians, moved with me.

District Four is truly a magnificent menagerie, in both human and ecological terms. The characteristics of being unusual, varied, or behaving like wild animals applies regularly in many coastal villages... and we're proud of it. Bayside, more people live in the postage stamp portion of the Fourth District known as the Canal than in all the coastal and inland rural villages combined. Their needs and interests are miles apart as well. And it doesn't take an anthropologist to recognize how a Latino dairyman, a Homestead Valley homeowner, and a Novato neighborhood experience life so differently. Six thousand constituents live at San Quentin Prison. On my hike, the warden let me go in San Quentin's east gate and out its west one, making sure I was shadowed by a guard the entire time. My vision for San Quentin includes a world class shoreline and transit hub, while the State remains determined to just warehouse prisoners. Stay tuned.

On my trek, I visited the County's new Health and Wellness Center, the centerpiece of our integrated, client-focused public health strategy. Consistent with our wildfire management priority, we dedicated a new Mt. Tam firehouse built to the highest green standards. I passed Bolinas' new firehouse and clinic, a community success where the County has been an important partner. I saw the new antenna that completes our emergency radio system. Patiently, I worked with Bolinas until we found a location everyone supported. I attended the groundbreaking for Point Reyes' new playground and stopped by its outstanding preschool. I arrived by speedboat for a boat park ceremony in Marshall. I saw the results of the County partnering at the Muir Beach, Stinson, Tomales, and San Geronimo community centers, as well as at joint use gymnasiums in the Lagunitas and Shoreline School districts. I chatted with librarians and patrons alike.

The County has quite a physical presence in District Four. Six library branches, five fire stations, two lookouts, a Sheriff's substation, five parks, ten open space preserves, over half of the County's 420 maintained road miles, a service yard, and a health office exist. Hundreds of County employees do their best to support a safe, healthy, and enriching community. The image of lazy bureaucrats does not apply to Marin's public safety personnel, park rangers, all-weather road crews, ag assistants, lively librarians, and caring case managers.

The County also develops long-range plans, guiding land uses into the future. After six years of public meetings and technical review, the Board will complete the Countywide Plan update by November. Then, we will start publicly revising our Local Coastal Plan for the first time in twenty-five years.

Nature, too, is vibrantly diverse. From creekside marshes to serpentine ridges to coastal forests and sweeping grassland horizons, spectacular settings abound. I especially enjoyed the fairyland feeling beside Mt. Tam's Fern Creek. There was a primordial rawness among Olema Valley's fog-shrouded fir trees, creaking in the breeze like the masts on ancient ships. My feet sank into the soft forest floor beneath giant redwoods as if I was walking on pillows. Along with many others, the County is working to restore Redwood, Easkoot, Pine Gulch, and Lagunitas Creeks, Bolinas Lagoon, and Tomales Bay. Decisions come slowly, mimicking the forces of nature around us.

This job is exciting because it connects me with the pulse of this community. My journey braided work, fitness, fellowship, recreation, and personal reflection into a lifetime memory. My appreciation expanded because of the slow motion way that non-motorized travel occurs. When I finally fell into the comfort of my own bed, I felt a surge of pride in the achievement itself, but also in all the people who care so passionately about the place we live. History and nature have given us a lot to work with, and we're doing just that.

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