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Jenner Jottings -Tim McKusick - November 2016

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Jenner Jottings -Tim McKusick - November 2016

As Wine Country replaces Redwood Country, our history and heritage are being lost in the process. The few remaining vestiges of our past are disappearing quietly with little or no attention given to the stories they hold.

The last of our one-room schoolhouses in Duncans Mills on the Russian River and at Stewarts Point up on the Sonoma Coast are crumbling into the fields. The roofs are now gone, leaving the structures open to the elements, accelerating the sad demise of these portals into our colorful past.

On the first ridge above the Northern Sonoma Coast is where the town of Sea View once thrived. A stagecoach stop along one of the oldest trade routes in Northern California. Long before Seaview Road was a rural county road and before it was a stagecoach line, it was a major Pomo trail, traversing the coastal ridge, with the Pacific Ocean off to one side and dropping down to the South Fork of the Gualala River on the other.

If you “Google Earth” Seaview, CA, you will see an aerial photo of the home at Sea View Ranch. The kitchen-dining area of the home are what remained of the original stagecoach stop, the last remaining building.

This humble farmhouse was home for Stan and Beverly Hanson for the past 65 years. Their chapter in the history of Sea View is rich with stories from logging’s heyday in these coastal Sonoma hills.

Stan and Bev moved to Sea View in 1952 where they raised their family. He hauled logs and lumber to the local mills with his old reliable Mack Truck. When there was no more timber to haul, he parked the Mack under a big Oak tree behind the historic home and got his real estate broker’s license.

The family ranch house was always open to friends and family. When Stan and Bev had parties, everyone came. They were legendary in the tight-knit coastal community for their hospitality and love for their neighbors.

When Stan passed away in 2013, he was laid to rest in the small Sea View Town Cemetery a few steps away from his family ranch. It was fitting that they chose a spot under the stately Oak tree on the knoll for his final resting place.

At his funeral, the memories and stories shared told of a simpler time. A time where logging and milling were the main economy for the area. Mills with log ‘decks’ and ‘cinder cones’ to burn the sawdust dotted the rural landscape.

At Stan’s funeral, one old friend recalled how it was not uncommon to have several empty logging trucks, engines running, double-parked outside of the Sky Bar in Cazadero as the drivers stopped in for a “quick pop” on the way for another load of logs.

This colorful portrayal summed up the gregarious friendly nature that best described Stan and his outlook on life. Always ready to share his good natured humor and a “cold one” at his historic family home in Sea View.

He and Bev raised their 3 boys in this ‘stagecoach stop turned farmhouse’ with their small orchard and ocean views. During their lifetimes changes came to this small community. Logging still goes on, but in a more subdued and selective manner compared to ‘the old days’.

Every once in a while a few big Redwoods on logging trucks make their way down Seaview and Meyers Grade roads, some coming from Plantation (the next stage coach stop on the ridge). But for the most part this former logging area has been discovered to be an excellent grape growing region. Wine makers from around the world sought out this unique area.

During your “Google Earth” search for Sea View CA, as you zoom in for a closer look, you will notice the many vineyards (and ponds) gracing the hillsides above the South Fork of the Gualala. Where the Redwoods were logged heavily over the past century, grape growers are eagerly planting new vines. This is the newly established Fort Ross – Seaview AVA, a “niche AVA” carved out of the Sonoma Coast AVA a few short years ago.

One wine maker purchased several hundred acres in this coveted AVA directly behind Stan and Bev’s historical home. Peter Michael Winery, on the advice of their financial advisors bought and developed the surrounding lands.

Sir Peter and Lady Michael saw the opportunity to expand their “boutique vineyard” holdings into this upcoming wine growing region.

The Peter Michael Winery development in Sea View was controversial from the start. Over the objections of the neighbors, wetlands were filled in (as new “man-made wetlands” took their place). Water that normally would flow into these headwaters of the Gualala River’s South Fork is now sequestered into irrigation ponds to water the vines.

Steadily, wine country development is encroaching on the rural landscape of the coastal ridges and valleys. Smaller family wineries are being bought up by world-wide conglomerates, driving the stampede for more vineyards in our water-scarce neighborhoods.

And as they do, the rural charm and deep local history we have embraced is being methodically erased.

After Stan’s passing, Beverly Hanson lived in her home on the ridge until her recent passing. Through the love and attention of her family and friends, Bev was able to live out her days at hers and Stan’s home.

The neighbors wondered what would become of the family ranch and historic home. Peter Michaels, who own the acreage directly behind the Hanson ‘stage coach stop’ home made her an offer which she accepted. This allowed her the money for hospice and other end-of-life needs.

This seemed like a good idea. After all, the home, steeped in the rich history of this area would make a unique tasting room or perhaps a decent home for a Peter Michaels ranch foreman.

That is why it came as such a shock to see the giant bulldozers scraping any and all traces of this important historical building from the face of the earth. All that is left is the big willow tree that shaded the home.

In a matter of a couple of days, an important piece of local history that had survived for more than a century was gone. Scraped clean, without a trace.

All to make way for another Boutique Winery whose absentee owners are seemingly oblivious to the damage they have done. It is more than just about the scarce water supplies that are being stretched to the breaking point. It is about the pride of preserving for future generations what little we have left of our deep local history.

A great sense of sadness and emptiness permeates my soul as I slowly drive through Sea View. I pause to give a silent prayer for Stan and Bev. That chapter of the story of Sea View is now closed.