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Monte Rio Musings - November 2014


Monte Rio Musings - November 2014


The cottonwood trees are half golden, mostly on the limbs of the trees’ sun bathed west sides. As autumn proceeds and the days grow shorter, the cottonwoods let fly their bright angular leaves into the dark still river below. Each leaf that drops marks a chance to be thankful, a reminder of the fragile nature and transience of life.  

Having survived a case of leukemia this spring and summer, I spent a lot of time thinking about that transience and fragile nature of life. This November, there will be a lot more “thanks” in my Thanksgiving. Thanks for the prayers; thanks for the family; thanks for Dr. Zhang and the staff at Kaiser, and thanks for the friendships. Yes, with each falling golden leaf, we can be thankful, for no other reason than that the leaf’s life is done, and we’re still here to watch.

Carrying scatterings of cottonwood leaves, the river water level has been up for several weeks since the mouth sanded up in Jenner. I went down to the beach for a look recently, and the sand had built up over the concrete berm of the old breakwater. In Monte Rio, the river water level seems to rise a few inches a day. There are motor boats speeding by, stirring up a wake and those cottonwood leaves. A few days ago, someone and their boat pushed six private docks upstream to the Monte Rio boat launch.  And at the public beach, the rental kayaks and canoes are put away, and so is the snack bar stand. They’re done for the summer; ready for the winter rain that seems a little reluctant so far.

But it’s only November, and if we don’t get rain for awhile, at least there is an outpouring of campaign literature (and signs) for the upcoming election. This year’s ballot has a couple of Monte Rio matters to pay attention to. The Monte Rio Fire Protection District board of directors has placed a parcel tax on the ballot, and there is a contested election for one seat on the governing board of the Monte Rio Union School District.

At a community election forum held October 16, fire district board members Dan Fein and Ken Wikle and Chief Steve Baxman explained that the parcel tax represents a significant policy shift away from a volunteer-based operation to the increased use of paid staff, i.e. three full-time firefighters, one per eight-hour shift.  Board members anticipate that the Measure S proceeds will bring in $200,000 to $240,000 annually to supplement a budget that has been in the $350,000 to $400,000 range in recent years.  That will cost homeowners like me up to $60/year, and large landowners up to a dollar an acre.

The school district race is the first contested election in at least 20 years. The two candidates are Ross Bickford, a semi-retired educator married to a school superintendent in another district, and Peter Andrews, a radio host on station KGGV and until recently a member of the board of the Monte Rio Recreation and Parks District. Andrews did not speak at the Oct. 16 forum, but did leave literature supporting himself and Measure M, the countywide ballot measure for library funding for which he has been campaigning. Also at the forum was Lori Bruhner, candidate for the West Sonoma County Union High School District board of trustees. A 13-year employee of the district, she was recruited into the Russian River Rotary Club by Bickford, the club president. He said he supports her for the high school district seat, as well as supporting candidates Kellie Noe and David Stecher for that board.

The last big ticket election item in Monte Rio was for the sewer project bond issue. The site of the sewer plant was on the Sheridan Ranch property. The ranch sign is down, and the property sold last year for a reported $1.05 million. The new owners have pulled demolition and building permits for the $576,000 renovation that is now going on at the property, which is not a designated historic landmark. The PRMD permit records online don’t indicate any other plans for the property.

Upcoming Events, etc.

On Saturday, Nov. 1 at the Community Center, State Parks will hold a forum about the water line work proposed at Armstrong Woods State Park. Daylight Savings Time ends on Sunday, Nov. 2. Vote for school board and Measure S on or by Nov. 4, election day. Saturday, November 8 is the Chamber of Commerce-sponsored Casino Night at the Community Center. It’s a fundraiser that helps pay for the fireworks in July. For ticket information and details, check the Chamber’s website at, or contact me.

Monday, Nov. 10, the Monte Rio Recreation and Park District Board meets at the Community Center. Remember our Veterans on November 11. The fire district board meets Nov. 11, at the Community Center.  Friends of Monte Rio hold their monthly supper club on the 17th at the Community Center. The school district board meets on Nov. 13th, and the school takes a week-long Thanksgiving break from Nov. 24 through the 28th.

The Zoning Code amendments for Riparian Corridors and Biotic Habitat head to the Board of Supervisors at a public hearing tentatively scheduled for November 14 and 25. The Permit and Resource Management Department file number is ORD13-0002. Here’s the online link to the staff report and maps:

(If you like to hang out near creeks, then head to Creekside Park for a “slow food” lunch at the Farm Stand Café. How slow? A customer orders a salad and the response is, wait a minute I have to go pick some lettuce and tomatoes.  There’s a garden there, and as you eat your panini and salad, you can watch the garden from which your food was made.)

On Saturday and Sunday, December 6 and 7th, the Holiday Wonderland Craft Faire will be held at the Community Center. Get your holiday shopping done early and buy from local crafts folk.