Standing on the bank of the Eel River, surrounded by local volunteers describing the park as the ‘lifeblood of the community,’ it’s hard to believe that Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area almost didn’t make it. Despite its well-developed trail and campground network, beautiful scenery, and a couple of the finest swimming holes in Mendocino County, the park was proposed for closure in 2011. Instead, dedicated volunteers from two local groups—Mendocino Area Parks Association and Team Standish—performed the yeoman’s work of clearing roads, maintaining campgrounds, and interacting with park users all in the name of keeping the park alive. Their spirit and resolve embody the attitude that makes conservation possible, and are an inspiration to us here at the League.
Dedication and will power go a long way, but unfortunately there are some problems that intention alone cannot solve. Standish-Hickey has two major problems that if not addressed, could undo all the work and love the volunteers have given, would make the park unmanageable, and force its closure even in the face of such strong local support. The best camping spots at the park happen to be on the far side of the river, accessed only by a seasonal bridge. Without the resources to install the bridge soon, the permits required to span the river (which is home to imperiled coho and steelhead salmon) will expire, preventing access to nearly 50 sites. In addition, the antiquated water storage tanks, which are used not only by the park but also for local fire protection, have begun to leak—losing thousands of gallons of treated, potable water every week. This unsustainable ongoing expense, not to mention the infrastructural work needed to repair or replace the tanks, could prove to be too much for the park’s light coffers.
The League is helping as best it can, but without the help of its members and other concerned folks, it may not be enough. Go visit Standish-Hickey (it’s far but it’s worth it), and decide for yourself if the costs to keep such a place open are too great to bear. And please, do whatever you can to be a part of the effort to save this very special place.