5,630 acres of spectacular lands on the Sonoma County coast are now open to the public, thanks to many years of hard work by a suite of partners (with assistance by PCI!). On Friday, September 7, the Preserve was opened to the public for the first time.
View from Sentinel Point, Jenner Headlands
The property was acquired in 2009 by the Sonoma Land Trust and the taxpayer-funded Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District. Other funding sources included the California Coastal Conservancy, the California Wildlife Conservation Board, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and Forest Legacy Program. The Wildlands Conservancy also assisted with funding. In September 2013, Sonoma Land Trust transferred the property to The Wildlands Conservancy to manage as a preserve managed jointly by TWC and Sonoma Land Trust.
PCI’s role was to design and assist with regulatory compliance for the new entrance on Highway 1, allowing public access while ensuring a safe entry point, protection of sensitive resources, and maintaining the beauty of this highly visible location. Project components included a trailhead parking lot, ADA-accessible restrooms and day-use area with picnic tables, ADA-compliant access road and trail to trailhead, wetland enhancement, and a restored drainage. The two-tiered parking lot is designed to blend in with the natural topography, and allows for bus parking and emergency vehicle access. Storm water runoff will be retained onsite and infiltrate into a constructed bio-swale and infiltration basin. PCI also completed the biology studies, wetland delineations, visual analysis, managed cultural resource assessments, assisted with community outreach, and prepared construction cost estimates.
When you visit, you can take your pick from a challenging 7.5-mile hike up to Pole Mountain on the Sea to Sky Trail, shorter loops near the entrance, or a relaxing picnic at the trailhead with amazing views. Dogs on leash are allowed on Jenner Headlands, but not on Pole Mountain. The Wildlands Conservancy’s trail map is available here.
PCI assisted the Sonoma Land Trust with the site design and bridge alternative analyses for an eroding bridge at Live Oaks Ranch, located near the start of the Tubbs fire. Sonoma Land Trust successfully replaced the bridge in fall 2017, just days before the area caught fire. Firetrucks used the new bridge to access the Live Oaks Ranch property and fight the fire through the night.
In November 2017, a team of PCI employees, PG&E employees, and 60 Reedley College students and faculty gathered to plant over 600 trees in a riparian area of the Reedley College campus, located 19 miles southeast of Fresno. Reedley College was supportive of PG&E planting trees on campus property and expanding the existing riparian corridor near the confluence of the Kings River and Wahtoke Creek. Trees were planted during a “Field Day Weekend” that provided a hands-on learning experience for students from the College’s Department of Natural Resources.
Plantings included native species such as valley oak, black walnut, box elder, and Fremont cottonwood. The health of the trees will be monitored for at least five years. The Reedley Natural Resources Department will continue to utilize the site for ongoing learning opportunities, such as plant monitoring and establishment, for its students.
Hurray! Coho and steelhead were found in Green Gulch Creek last week in the restored, meandering reach designed and constructed by PCI for Green Gulch Farm/San Francisco Zen Center. Two adult red-legged frogs were also spotted hanging out in one of the new pools near a rootwad and complex woody debris jam. The good news was delivered by Darren Fong and crew from GGNRA, who did the monitoring.
This CDFW- and NOAA-funded project involved restoring the lower reach of the creek from a steep, straight, concrete-controlled channel to a longer, pool and riffle-dominated meandering reach with installed woody debris and a wide, active floodplain. The objective was to provide year-round rearing for juvenile salmonids and spawning on natural riffles. So far, so good! We completed construction in 2014. We’re thrilled to be part of this effort and look forward to watching it develop and support many more creatures in the years ahead.
In early December, 2016, coho salmon were seen spawning upstream of the recently completed dam removal project that PCI worked on in Mill Creek near Healdsburg. Staff from the Sonoma County Water Agency and the UC Cooperative Extension/CA Sea Grant’s Coho Monitoring Program documented the fish. A PCI employee also observed a female coho building a redd (nest) immediately upstream of the site while closely attended by two male coho.
The project was completed in October, 2016, by PCI working in partnership with Trout Unlimited, NOAA, CDFW, and neighboring landowners. It restores access to 11.2 miles of prime coho and steelhead habitat upstream of the removed flashboard dam. More detailed information about the project and Mill Creek’s importance as coho habitat can be found in the “Mill Creek fish passage featured in Climate.gov” post below and at: https://caseagrant.ucsd.edu/project/coho-salmon-monitoring/habitat-enhancement-monitoring.
As of January 4th, 2017, the Coho Monitoring Program estimated that at least 19 adult coho had made it past the remediated dam site. Program staff have also observed eight coho redds in the upper reaches of Mill Creek, which is more than have been seen in the past eleven years combined! This is a great success in the continued efforts towards coho recovery in the Russian River.
See link for a great video of coho spawning upstream of the Mill Creek dam remediation site: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCZP-tZ18Qc
Coho salmon female and jack next to redd, upstream of Mill Creek Dam Fish Passage Project on 12/3/16. A jack is a male salmon that matures and returns one year earlier than other adult salmon to carry out spawning and is thus smaller than other adults. Photo courtesy of The Coho Monitoring Program.
After many years of planning, Jenner Headlands, the spectacular property on the Sonoma Coast purchased in 2009 by a coalition of private and public partners, is almost ready for open public access.
PCI was retained by the Wildlands Conservancy, which now owns and manages the 5,630 acre preserve, to develop public access off of Highway 1. Construction of a safe turnout, 30-space parking area, day use area with restrooms, and over 700 feet of wheelchair-accessible trail is planned to begin this year as soon as the Wildlands Conservancy secures the necessary funding,
PCI’s team was proud to add our special touch with bioswales, a restored drainage, sensitivity to how all of the elements fit into the landscape, and a commitment to easy and meaningful access for everyone. As PCI’s project manager and lead designer Maggie Jenson said, “I have loved working on this project because it’s not just about the function of the parking lot. It’s about the aesthetics, and it’s also about the ecological value. … The ultimate result is we’ve created something that is an enhancement to the environment.”
For the first time in ten years, coho were observed April 21 during a snorkel survey in Green Gulch Creek. Shoved over to the side of the valley, lined with concrete, and pinned in place with a series of small dams, this lowest tributary to Redwood Creek has long been considered utterly inhospitable to coho salmon. When one pair spawned in a rubble dam during the 2004/2005 winter, the residents of the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in Muir Beach were inspired to take on restoration of the creek. With support from the California Department of Fish and Game, NOAA Fisheries, the Natural Resources Agency, NRCS, Marin Community Foundation, Patagonia, hard-working volunteers, and many generous donations, Green Gulch Farm worked with PCI to design and implement the first phases of restoration. In 2013 and 2014, the farm road was moved away from the channel, a new bridge installed, and a former farm field replaced with a 750-foot long reach of natural, meandering channel and wetland/riparian habitat. http://www.marinij.com/general-news/20141013/green-gulch-creek-recreated-to-help-endangered-fish
In 2015, Spring Valley Creek, a tributary to Green Gulch that had been piped into an in-channel dam, was re-connected downstream so that coarse sediment and cool summer water could return to the newly-created habitat. Green Gulch Farm and PCI are currently looking for funding to design and implement water conservation and rainwater storage projects as the next restoration phase.
And it’s working! This winter’s storms brought some perfectly-sized coarse material down Spring Valley Creek and into the main channel. Even better, PCI biologist Jennifer Michaud saw two young-of-the-year coho in the restored meander reach during her spring survey.