By Kathy Bailey
Volunteers who have been key in rejuvenating Hendy Woods State Park and ensuring that the park remains open came together with their families at River’s Bend Retreat Center on a beautiful spring Sunday, April 13, for a Thank You lunch sponsored by the Hendy Woods Community. Volunteers have been active stocking and staffing the visitor center and the entrance kiosk, leading interpretive walks and campfire talks, controlling invasive weeds like fennel, creating and updating the organization’s website, identifying and tallying birds, collecting photos of plants found at the park, raising funds, keeping the organization going, interacting with Park Department leaders and Save the Redwoods League staff, and creating and constructing the new “Welcome to Anderson Valley” signs that feature Hendy Woods. And more! Much of this activity is kept in motion by Volunteer Coordinator Shelly Englert.
After enjoying a delicious lunch put together by Boont Berry Farm, Lauren’s Restaurant, Janet Anderson and Deanna Apfel, Kathy Bailey updated the group about the current status of the park and projects underway. Although many people have gotten the idea that all is again well, Bailey emphasized that the state park crisis is not over, it is just in a quiet phase. While there is no current threat to close the park, staffing throughout the Mendocino District is stretched very thin. For instance, the rangers based at Hendy Woods, Dave Rodrigues and Natasha Morris, have to cover all the way south to Manchester, or up to Van Damme and sometimes even McKerricher, depending on the shift.
The July 2012 discovery that around $35 million dollars in park funds had been “hidden” by the Department of Parks and Recreation has led many to assume that funding is no longer an issue. However, of that money, the majority had been generated for Off Highway Vehicle parks and only about $22 million was available for parks like Hendy Woods. The Legislature took this one time only “found” money and earmarked it for special parks projects. But the underlying annual $20 million funding cut that provoked the park closure crisis in 2011 has never been completely restored. This year the Governor’s budget reinstated $14 million of that deficit. Sacramento seems to be waiting for the report of the Parks Forward Commission, created in 2012, to decide how, or whether, to move forward with adequate funding for our state parks.
Good news for Hendy Woods are the infrastructure upgrades being made at the park. One provision of the scandal money the Legislature set aside provides a pool of money to match donations from non-profits. The Hendy Woods Community and Save the Redwoods League each donated $40,000 cash for Hendy Woods, which is being matched from the scandal money. Additionally, volunteer hours during 2012 were monetized and matched from the fund for an additional $23,000 for the park.
Originally, this money was to be allocated for replacing the aging water delivery system. However, the high cost of that project led to the decision to fund it from another source specifically for “deferred maintenance.” Our donations and matched money are now being used for an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant day use area upgrade, that will include a better bathroom in a new less prominent location, two shade ramadas, new signage and new paths. Planning is far advanced and work will begin after the camping season.
Major preliminary engineering, such as surveying for the location of the new water lines, is already well under way and the Hendy Woods Community has a relatively high degree of confidence that the Department will honor its commitment to replace the water lines and other needed water system repair. Because we were so good at making noise and raising money, Hendy Woods is receiving large allocations from the scandal money. These actions are very encouraging, but because the overall funding for the Parks Department is so inadequate, we will have to be vigilant and ready to step forward at a moment’s notice.
Consider volunteering! All sorts of talents can be put to good used. It’s fun, personally rewarding, and vital. Contact Shelly Englert at HendyWoodsVolunteer@gmail.com or call the Hendy Woods Community at 895-3746. Come visit the park and get inspired! A good place to start during this wildflower-rich season might be to come along on the Saturday morning interpretive walk, which begins at 10:30 from the Day Use Area. This is an easy, family friendly way to connect with our incredibly lovely park, Hendy Woods.