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Sonoma County Gazette
Jenner Jottings by Tim McKusick

Jenner Welcomes Fire Refugees

Oct 23, 2017
by Tim McKusick


911 call boxes are currently being decommissioned along our remote North Coast Hwy 1. Although personal cell phone reception along our coastline is spotty at best and non-existent in most areas, for some reason the ‘powers that be’ have decided that the public does not need the luxury of the emergency 911 call boxes. I fail to see the logic behind such a move. We should preserve and maintain all communications systems we have available in order to stay connected and alert to any and all emergencies. Removing the 911 call boxes along our remote coastline is short-sighted and premature at best.

Our ‘River-Meets-The-Sea’ gem of a town Jenner has stepped up to meet the demands of those who are affected and displaced by the ongoing tragedy in the Santa Rosa area. According to Cal Ares, President of theJenner Community Center ( they have stocked the Jenner Community Center with food, supplies and provisions for the fire refugees. They are also stockpiling some provisions for future disasters. According to Ares, “Jenner has had a heart-warming outpouring of support for really anything that needs to be done in this crisis”. The Tiny Town with the Gigantic Heart! They exemplify the spirit of the greater Sonoma County Community at this unbelievable moment in local history. Bless them! I am honored and humbled to be able to call this my home.

Work is progressing with the parking lot, trail head and other amenities in preparation for the Jenner Headlands Preserve 2018 opening to the public. Planned infrastructure includes parking spaces for 30 passenger vehicles and two school buses near the site of an asphalt turnout at the edge of the property, located about a mile and a half north of Jenner. A day-use area with picnic tables, restrooms and a kiosk containing information about the property, its conservation heritage, protected wildlife, biodiversity and management is part of the 6-acre so-called Gateway Project, as well.

A key feature of the $2.1 million plan, a paved 400-foot trail accessible by wheelchair, will ensure that everyone, no matter their abilities, can reach a scenic overlook providing views of rolling coastal prairie, pockets of redwood and Douglas fir, oak woodland and rock outcroppings, and the sea-stack-studded waters of the Pacific just below.

The 2009 Jenner Headlands purchase was the largest single land conservation deal by dollar amount in county history.

The 2014 purchase of 238 acres on and around Pole Mountain, which reaches 2,204 feet and provides commanding views in every direction, helped create more than 6,300 acres of connected wildlife habitat in conjunction with the headlands and the Sonoma Land Trust’s 500-acre Little Black Mountain Preserve, which adjoins it.

Hundreds of people each year have visited the properties through guided tours during the extended period of planning, designing and gaining regulatory approvals for public access on sensitive coastal lands.

The headwaters of Sheephouse Creek, a home to the endangered Coho Salmon begins high in the Jenner Headlands Preserve. This stream is vitally important to the future survival of the species, as it is one of the few true ‘Estuary Perched’ Coho streams in Northern California. That is, this stream feeds into the Russian River Estuary and is directly influenced by the tidal flow. The fish that call Sheephouse their home do not have to battle upstream through the ever-dwindling water supply as their Dry-Creek cousins must do. Sheephouse Coho can count on the incoming tide to safely usher them to their breeding grounds. Our job is to make sure they have a healthy stream habitat to return to.

Sheephouse Creek, born in the headwaters in the Preserve, is being restored as part of the plan to bring this area (which has been historically abused by human activities: logging, mining, etc) back to a state where the trees and area will mimic an old-growth forest habitat. This noble goal will take generations to achieve.

I look forward to the day when the entire Sheephouse Creek watershed, from its headwaters high in the Jenner Headlands Preserve to its confluence with the Russian River, is afforded the protections and safeguards deserving of such an important micro-habitat. The sections of Sheephouse that remain in private holdings should be next on the list of acquisitions to be considered. The logging families that control these last bits of the fragmented Sheephouse Creek watershed would still be able to maintain (log) the holdings, but with a different set of priorities. The emphasis would be on leaving the trees to mature into future ‘old-growth’ stands, while periodically thinning the ‘suckers’ and fire-prone thickets (as per the Mission Statement for the Jenner Headlands Preserve).

Jobs Protected; Habitat Protected and Restored; Threatened and Endangered Species Saved! We can do this!

Bless all of those whose lives have been up-ended by the recent disasters. Remember, together we are Sonoma-Strong!







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