Bolinas committee encourages restoration of sewer ponds property

03/24/2016

The Bolinas Community Public Utility District will dedicate $3,200 to improve and provide long-term maintenance for a mile-long trail built in 2008 that connects the Big Mesa to downtown Bolinas. The decision follows a recommendation by a subcommittee that spent the last two years studying 40 acres adjacent to the town’s wastewater treatment facility that serve as open space and are leased for row crops and goats. The report, authored by the nine-member Land Stewardship Committee, traces the historical use of the land—which slopes from the wastewater treatment pond system toward downtown—from Coast Miwok times through Mexican land grants.  Today, the 40 acres support crops and orchards, eucalyptus groves, a goat farm, the Resource Recovery compost facility and paths for walkers, bikers and horseback riders. Besides the trail improvement—the only item that has garnered funding from the district so far—the report recommends restoring native habitat and clearing debris to reduce fire fuel. In January, the utility district board approved the report’s spirit and intent. “There were good ideas in there, and we expect to move ahead as time and budget permit,” Don Smith, a board member, said in an email to the Light. “These things take years.” To date, the district has made efforts to reduce fire fuels by thinning eucalyptus and mowing grasses on the property. But these projects, the report says, need bolstering to ensure that invasive broom and sprawling ivy do not overwhelm native plants like meadowfoam, coffeeberry and California hazel. In all, the report documents 44 kinds of native flora in need of protection and many more fauna that use the flora for food and shelter. Promoting native plant growth, the report says, would dramatically help much-needed bee populations and the nearly extinct lotus blue butterfly and increase cliff stability. The report also identifies three systems of crumbling trails that many residents use as alternatives to driving downtown. In particular, it recommends reinforcing the mile-long bike path  with a harder surface. The existing path, which has no hard edges, has been degraded by rains, weeds, horse traffic and gophers.   “We’re not going to change the world,” said Ken Masterson, a member of the subcommittee. “But we’re trying to take responsibility for a small part of our world.” So far, committee members have independently raised around $1,500. Those funds will go toward consultants, food for volunteers and funds to purchase plants. The report also recommended against granting any new leases for areas in the restoration zone. Currently, the district leases four acres to Mickey Murch, whose family runs Gospel Flat Farm, and three acres to a collective that manages a goat farm.