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Spring 2030 in a town once called Fort Bragg, California

Updated: Mar 12, 2023

Today I took my young daughter out to see the beautiful new Noyo Center for Marine Science. We parked at the south trail parking lot, and took the electric jitney out to the dramatic structure that will house the 73 foot Blue Whale skeleton. After we looked at that wonderful design and checked out the first exhibits, I wanted to get a cup of tea at the new café that overlooks the recently daylighted Alder Creek. We only waited a few minutes for another jitney. They run all day on the Headlands and in town. Electrically powered by solar panels, which are required for every structure on the Headlands as well as in town, the free rides blend nicely with walking and biking.

The café called New Democracy was built just west of the Lyme Forest Products offices. These are shared with The Redwood Forest Foundation and the Nature Conservancy. This structure was originally built by Georgia-Pacific when the old mill was bustling. From out of their south facing windows, they have seen a lot of marvelous changes in a few short years.

After Georgia-Pacific was finally forced to clean up the ponds and surrounding areas, in the Central Parkland, the restoration began in earnest. Even though the cleanup action took tough enforcement, which KOCH Industries fought all the way to the State Supreme Court, they soon were helping pay for the work because it was such good PR. The community enthusiastically volunteered, working closely with local non-profits and government agencies such as the Mendocino County RCD–Resource Conservation District. Local non-profits included The Mendocino Land Trust and The Redwood Forest Foundation. Youth teams led by tribal biologists and International non-profits, such as The Nature Conservancy, were excited by our region’s commitment to restoration, carbon sequestration and regenerative sustainable design.

My daughter and I sat at a table on the patio overlooking the day-lighted creeks and watched volunteers and their paid counterparts planting native grasses and vegetation among the “land formed” swales and contouring that was being constructed for water and run-off management.

Our table was ideal for viewing the beautiful Noyo Central Parkland Estuary. The estuary became possible after the old beach berm was removed and ponds 6, 7 and 8 were cleaned up. It emerged slowly, at first, but the physical changes now dazzle. The tides meet the creeks in an effortless dance. The beach changes every hour. It is hard to believe that this had been the most toxic and contentious acreage on the abandoned old Mill Site.

From the very beginning of the restoration work, the community decided that there would be only a few parking locations on the Headlands, and there would be no driving in individual private cars beyond the parking lots. This allowed the entire Headlands Design process to be much more low impact, rapid and flexible.

The Noyo Center for Marine Science is the most imposing new structure on the Headlands. We could see its stunning, dramatic lines. The Noyo Center was designed in such a way that it provided for almost all of its own energy needs through solar, wind and hydro from portions of the day-lighted creeks.

The café where we sat was one of the first businesses to open out on the Headlands. The decision had been made early on that the restoration and creek daylighting would begin immediately, while the build–out from the central business district would be very mindful of enhancing the old town and not hastily developing competing businesses to the detriment of the CBD.

Another new structure out on the Headlands was the Asilomar style conference Center. This conference center will work closely with the educational and research institutions that have been attracted to our region. It also provides reasonably priced accommodations for visitors to the coast.

The new conference center is located not far from the Noyo Center for Marine Science. This is shaping up to be an education and research hub. The Center For Restorative solutions was the first structure to go up on the those bluffs. It is a low impact structure, modular in design and movable if needed. From this building the restoration work in the Central Parkland area was brainstormed and directed.

Other interesting elements the community is considering for the Headlands include a small renewable energy facility at the North end of the property up by Glass Beach. This facility will allow our community to create a micro-grid that combines wind and solar with all the renewable energy produced from the structures on the Headlands. There are also plans for a small hybrid eco-industrial park. This facility will house complementary businesses in which the waste material from one business becomes the feedstock for the business next door. Here hi–tech blends with regenerative Biomimicry. Traditional Ecological Knowledge, taught by our local Pomo community, guides the newer tech that arrives by high-speed internet.

The Headlands are mostly restored open space. After years of community dialogue, when we saw the beauty of the restored creeks and estuary, almost everyone agreed that the maximum amount of open space was the highest and best use. There are still many acres available for careful development.

Just below the café where my daughter and I sat are the stylish green houses that were built for starting and hardening the native plants and vegetation that is being planted in the Central Parkland area and throughout the Headlands.

I remember when our community was still fighting KOCH Industries to finally clean up the Headlands. The list that I have pasted below, which we called a VISION for the NOYO HEADLANDS, seemed like only a dream. A dream we had been fighting for through 20 years of struggle. It feels like a miracle, and we are now on our way to achieving the entire dream:

Our community vision for the Headlands includes:

• Complete cleanup of the toxic contamination,

• Environmental restoration and protection,

• Recognition of Pomo First Nations status and role of TEK–Traditional Ecological Knowledge–in the rebirth and restoration of the Headlands,

• Workforce housing,

• Public parks with walking trails and Asilomar style conference center

• Small sustainable businesses to build the tax base and create jobs,

• Forest educational and interpretive center,

• Wildlife and natural beauty corridors that draw people to the Mendocino Coast and support re–wilding of the North Coast,

• Day-lighted Creeks and Carbon Sequestration,

• Noyo Center for Marine Science Educational & Visitor Center,

• Natural habitats to build natural capital,

• Farmers Market and Outdoor Performance and Conference Center,

• Bike/Pedestrian/ electric trolley paths,

• Eco Industrial Park as a job creator,

• Small demonstration solar and wind renewable energy park with storage.

Written by: George Reinhardt

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