Community Group Kept Park Open Until State Could Resume Upkeep

Standish Hickey Park on the Eel RIver

Standish Hickey Park on the Eel River [Crop of a photo by Tanya Horlick]

Written by Tanya Horlick:

On Saturday, September 22, the Mendocino Area Parks Association announced the daily operations of Standish-Hickey Recreation Area will transfer back into the hands of California State Parks this year. October 31st will be the last day that Team Standish, a group of local citizens, staffs the Leggett campground and riverside park.

In 2011, California State Parks planned to close Standish-Hickey Recreation Area which offers camping, swimming, fishing and more. The community stepped in to keep it open under the direction of Mendocino Area Parks Association (MAPA).

Jenny Heckenroth, the Executive Director of MAPA, congratulated and thanked the many individuals who fulfilled the needs of the park over the years. The Mendocino Sheriff’s department answered many emergency calls for Standish Hickey. California State Park Rangers were available at a rate of $400 per hour at four-hour minimum contracts. Mendocino Volunteer Fire Departments helped construct seasonal bridges that are essential for accessing parts of Standish Hickey. Save the Redwoods League provided grants to fund seasonal bridges across the Eel River. Volunteers Bruce Hilbach-Barger and Carla Thomas from Friends of Usal have been maintaining the public grounds at that campground on the Mendocino Coast.

Heckenroth thanked three people who’ve lived and worked at the park for many years – Cyndra, Vern, and Frank – and the owners of the Peg House. Gary and Diana, who offer fine goods and fresh food across the Highway 101 from Standish Hickey.

MAPA Treasurer Stan Anderson divulged Standish Hickey’s finances from 2013 to present day. In nearly six years, park attendance has almost doubled, from about ten thousand to over twenty thousand visitors per year. In 2013, Team Standish gathered just under $99 thousand from public visitors and utilized about $98 thousand in grants. Over time, park revenues steadily increased and the need for grant funding reduced. By 2017, Standish Hickey collected about $218,000 from the general public.

Under the direction of Park Manager Roger Woodsmall, Maintenance Supervisor John Eickhoff, and through the efforts of dedicated staff, Team Standish has kept Standish Hickey open to the public. Moreover, Team Standish finished many improvement projects that were incomplete for years, including rebuilding the railings along a steep trail to one of the deepest swimming holes on the South Fork of the Eel River. Team Standish also renovated the popular Hike & Bike section of the Rock Creek loop of the Campground. What used to be a campsite-sized area that was crowded with road-weary travelers, is now a larger clearing with a rain and shade shelter, a vice for Bike repairs, and a power outlet.

Cindy McCarthy and John Sinclair are Bay Area residents that have visited Standish Hickey for over thirty years. McCarthy said, when she first visited the Park, “it was like the heavens opened for us –  the spaciousness, the wonderful Redwoods, the beautiful, beautiful clean water. It saved us really emotionally. It was so hard to come back to the noise and the sidewalks and the trash (of San Francisco).”

Anderson said, “it worked out to be a very successful partnership, so it’s kind of sad to turn it back, but we certainly have nothing to hang our heads about. We were given a challenge, and we made it happen. We had a lot of dedicated people to make it happen.” Anderson revealed the management of Standish Hickey was not always lucrative, saying “MAPA itself as an organization never really got any money out of it. The only thing we got was reimbursement for direct expenses…This is the first year that we actually finished in the black.”

Jeff Hedin, a leader of the Team Standish community group, expressed gratitude to Congressman Jared Huffman for sponsoring State Bill SB42, which passed by a bi-partisan majority in 2011 and allowed for non-profits to enter operating agreements with Parks and keep spaces open in the absence of State funding.

As of November 1st of this year, California State Parks Staff will take over daily operations of Standish Hickey Recreation Area. The Rock Creek Campground will remain open to the public through the winter. Campers who wish to reserve spaces at Standish Hickey after October 31st can make plans online a www.ReserveAmerica.com

Carolyn Cathey, the previous director of MAPA, wrote in a public letter, “It’s amazing the miracles that happen when we all work together for a worthy cause.”

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28 comments

  • A great story I never knew. It is surprising that the State agreed to it and that so many people worked on it for so many years.

  • It is a lovely park, and I’ve been happily sending tourists there for years. I’m glad the locals could keep the park running for the past few years, and I hope it stays as successful in the future!

  • We camped there in October, listened to acorns fall all night.

  • Big ups to the Leggett crew who made this happen, from responding to the impact the park closure would have on the community to taking the actions necessary to counter that and follow thru…this required political actions and much more, and the end result was a resounding success for all, proud!

  • I have a question concerning the seasonal vehicle Bailey Bridge that was constructed across the South Fork Eel @ Standish Hickey SP this year. Who was responsible and accountable for the construction and funding for that bridge?

    • All I heard this year was the Eel carved two channels instead of one, so the bridge project was adaptive to conditions. No grants were mentioned in the 2018 budget I saw on Saturday, so I would deduce that MAPA coordinated the project. Thats conjecture and you could contact them for specifics @ http://www.mendoparks.org

      • Adaptive to conditions? It would seem, this bridge construction was not held to the same high standards as everyone else, nor did it comply with CEQA, ESA or EFH. The next 6 photo’s are from this years construction of the seasonal bridge at Standish Hickey I obtained through a PRA request with NCRWQCB and CDFW. 1 of 6:

    • Looks interesting, but not sure what to say about those images. I was told by others that they had to deal with two channels instead of one. Not trying to be anything but tranparent, youre just asking an uninformed source for that issue. Perhaps worth discussing with MAPA …

      • I left a message with Jenny Heckeroth, Executive Director, not heard back. And I don’t understand “had to deal with two channels instead of one”. How about NOT putting in the bridge? If that’s how they had to “deal” with it, it was wrong and in violation of everything from the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act, just to name a few. All for a bridge so people can camp on the other side the river? What the hell were they thinking? People have gone to jail for less. But I guess Standish Hickey got a pass from someone, and I’m going to find out who that was…

        • Maybe you should be witness to seasonal bridge construction at State Parks like Richardson Grove as well. The seasonal bridges at many parks allow for visitors to access places that would otherwise be difficult to reach, and some of those places accessible only from bridges are the most beautiful campgrounds in this area. I appreciate your sentiment, as our waterways are sacred. I’m not defending shoddy work, if that’s really what happened! But it’s worth investigating before making accusations for sure

          • I have “investigated” it, photo’s are the tip of the iceberg. This all took place in early July, all permits for this project were for State Parks, not MAPA. In all the documents concerning the construction on this bridge this year, there was never any enforcement action taken, even thought they listed more than a half dozen major violations, i.e. NCRWQCB and CDFW. In fact, it was State Parks that responded to NCRWQCB and CDFW, not MAPA. So after reading this article, I want to get to the bottom of this issue. Its too bad MAPA will not return my calls…

  • It will be interesting what they do to reverse the process and take all that dirt and soil out of the river when they take down the bridge. I guess you get what you pay for. So much for protecting our Wild & Scenic Rivers…

  • There are funds to help illegals fight deportation, but ya’ll can’t keep your parks open?

  • Here is an email from NCRWQCB to State Parks, i.e. Standish Hickey Seasonal Bridge:

    From: Shannon, Jacob J.@Waterboards <Jacob.Shannon@Waterboards.ca.gov
    Sent: Thursday, July 12, 2018 4:04 PM
    To: Transou, Amber@Parks
    Cc:

    Hello Amber,

    I left you a voicemail earlier today.

    I visited the Parks’ Standish-Hickey seasonal crossing yesterday in response to a complaint that we received earlier in the week. The project is permitted through our Clean Water Act section 401 Water Quality Certification Program (project file No. WDID 1B09036 WNHU).

    While onsite I observed that the bridge was not installed as described in the 401 certification and is in violation of the permit and the Water Quality Control Plan for the North Coast.

    The primary issue is the material used to construct the bridge approaches. The 401 certification allows for river-run gravel from adjacent bars to be collected and used for the bridge approaches. The material being used at the site is upland soil from slopes on either side of the bridge that was graded into the river. Further, the 401 certification states that a mitigation measure for the project’s water quality impacts is to employ sediment and turbidity BMPs during installation. The photos that we received in the complaint show that that did not occur.

    Moving forward, I’ll need Parks to submit a removal plan that describes how the bridge and associated upland soil will be removed at the end of this season (the 401 certification states that removal must occur by no later than October 1). Once received and approved, I will amend the 401 certification to include the removal plan and to align with any modifications to the LSAA from CDFW. I’ll also conduct a follow-up site visit in October to confirm that the removal plan was implemented correctly. Voluntary compliance through submission of the requested information would allow Parks to avoid enforcement action and continue forward with 401 certification coverage.

    Please feel free to call or email with any questions. I look forward to working with you,

    Jake Shannon
    Environmental Scientist
    Nonpoint Source/401 Certification Unit
    CalEPA – North Coast Regional Water Board
    5550 Skylane Blvd., Suite A
    Santa Rosa, CA 95403

  • Just got an email from MAPA, and it states:

    —– Forwarded Message —–
    From: Jenny Heckeroth
    To: evoice
    Sent: Wed, 26 Sep 2018 14:05:46 -0400 (EDT)
    Subject: Standish-Hickey SRA Seasonal Bridge

    Hi Ed,

    I left a message on your phone, but will follow up here as well.

    The Mendocino Area Parks Association, as per our non-profit operating agreement with CA State Parks, hired a licensed contractor to install the Standish-Hickey SRA Seasonal Bridge. In our agreement to manage the park, CA State Parks retains responsibility for resource protection – including permitting and monitoring for the bridge installation.

    We were contacted by CA State Parks per your public information act request and have fully cooperated by providing all emails and documents pertaining to the bridge installation.

    Thank you,

    Jenny Heckeroth
    Executive Director
    (707) 397-7022
    P.O. Box 1387 (mailing)
    45035 Main Street (physical )
    Mendocino, CA 95460
    Jennyh@mendoparks.org
    http://www.mendoparks.org

    “To Inspire and Ensure Stewardship of the State Parks of Mendocino County”

  • Full disclosure, my California Public Records Act request was emailed to State Parks on August 1, 2018 and as of today, not received any public document. They had 10 days to respond. On September 6th, I got an email response from State Parks that my request was on-going and further investigation was needed.

    If we cannot entrust our State agencies and their private partnerships to protect our Wild & Scenic Rivers, who can we entrust will protect our rivers and threatened & endangered species from adversely affecting and degrading water quality as this project did? If you see something, say something, water is life…

    • full disclosure, nobody gives a $hit.

      • Then I must be the only one who “gives a $hit”. I guess you speak for “nobody”?

      • Note: While I am usually on the side of saying exactly what you mean, “nobody gives a $hit” is not the civil discourse that I am trying to encourage here. Perhaps you could explain to Ed why you don’t think his concerns are of importance.

    • Thanks for diving into the muddy waters of governmental transparency, Ed! And for verifying the basis of your accusations. I’m sure impressed, you’re an ethical person and its excellent that you’re keeping others informed.

      Have you any experience assessing timber harvest plans?

      • Thank you, and no to answer your question; trying to protect and speak for one Wild & Scenic River is more than enough. I wish the people who are paid to protect natures rivers and wildlife, either public agencies or private NPO’s would do as they say and not as they DO. I’m only scratching the surface here…

  • Found out today, there was a meeting onsite at the Standish Hickey bridge location with regulatory agencies from USACE, CDFW, State Parks and NCRWQCB on September 12th to discuss “historic bridge installation, 2018 bridge installation, the required modifications to the design and installation of the bridge to address water quality and wildlife issues, and the removal plan for this October.” On September 24th, the following was issued by State Parks concerning that meeting:

    From : Jay@Parks Harris
    Subject : CSP Bailey Bridge Removal Plan (WDID No. 1B09036WNHU)
    To : Jacob J.@Waterboards Shannon
    Sent: Mon, Sep 24, 2018 01:10 PM
    Cc : Amber@Parks Transou , Shannon@Parks Dempsey , Brian@Parks Merrill , Victor@Parks Bjelajac , Cheri@Wildlife Sanville , Jane@Wildlife Arnold , L K CIV USARMY CESPN Sirkin (US)

    Jake,

    As requested during our meeting on September 12th regarding the State Park Bailey bridge removals at Standish Hickey SRA and Richardson Grove SP, we would like to offer the following proposal for the bridges removal.

    The bridge and temporary road at the Standish Hickey site will be dismantled and removed by October 15 before the onset of winter season flows. Prior to removal this year, clean rounded drain rock will be delivered and stockpiled on river left where it can be accessed the following year for installation. On the river left side channel, straw waddles and geotextile fabric will be placed immediately downstream of the causeway construction to allow sediment to settle out onto the fabric reducing the overall amount that may flow downstream. The ramp/causeway currently in place at the Standish Hickey site will be removed by dozer and excavator. The dozer will remove as much of the material as possible without spillover into the water along both sides of the causeway. Once the dozer has recovered as much fill as possible, the excavator will scoop sediment out of the channel as carefully as possible to reduce turbidity. Large rocks that impede recovery of the fill material will be individually picked out and moved to completed areas. If visual assessments of turbidity exceed 20% of undisturbed conditions, work will halt until the water in the disturbed area is clear. Some fill too wet and prone to entrainment will remain in the channel once the work is complete. Recovered fill will be added to the stockpile using the dozer until all fill is removed to the extent practicable.

    Upon removal, the ramp/causeway gravel will be stockpiled above the ordinary high water mark, along the slope above immediately adjacent to the paved road access points on both sides of the river. Jute fabric will be used to cover the pile and waddles will be placed along the bottom edge of the winter storage area.

    Previously excavated borrow areas along the left bar will be graded in place to be free draining toward the river and avoid any ponding of water.

    State Parks will notify NCRWQCB prior to and immediately following bridge removal so that follow-up inspection may occur.

    Upon the receipt of the LSAA from CDFW, State Parks will be submitting a request to modify our existing 401 permit based on the new project description. At that time we will also be requesting an extension to our permit so that the expiration dates coincide. Please let me know if you have any questions or have any additional information needs.

    Jay

    Jay Harris
    Senior Environmental Scientist
    Calif. State Parks, North Coast Redwoods District
    PO Box 100, Weott, CA 95571
    17119 Avenue of the Giants, Weott, CA 95571
    707.946.1808
    Jay.Harris@parks.ca.gov

  • My question for MAPA; Is MAPA expecting State Parks to foot the bill for added remediation and restoration that was caused by MAPA’s contractor? Who is accountable and responsible for the impetuous construction and violations caused from this project?

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