Community Group Kept Park Open Until State Could Resume Upkeep
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.”